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Genetic evidence for avian influenza movement from Asia to North America via wild birds
Date:10/27/2008

ales in North America, regions far removed from sources of Asian strains of avian influenza.

Scientists with the USGS, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, and Alaska native communities, obtained samples from more than 1,400 northern pintails from locations throughout Alaska. Samples containing viruses were then analyzed and compared to virus samples taken from other birds in North America and Eastern Asia where northern pintails are known to winter.

Researchers chose northern pintails as the focus of the study because they are fairly common in North America and Asia, they are frequently infected by low pathogenic avian influenza, and they are known to migrate between North America and Asia. None of the samples were found to contain completely Asian-origin viruses and none were highly pathogenic.

"This kind of genetic analysis - using the low pathogenic strains of avian influenza virus commonly found in wild birds - can answer questions not only about the migratory movements of wild birds, but the degree of virus exchange that takes place between continents, provided the right species and geographic locations are sampled," said John Pearce, a research wildlife biologist with the USGS Alaska Science Center and co-author of the study.

"Furthermore, this research validates our current surveillance sampling process for highly pathogenic avian influenza in Alaska and demonstrates that genetic analysis can be used as an effective tool to further refine surveillance plans across North America, Pearce added.


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Contact: John Pearce
jpearce@usgs.gov
907-786-7094
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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