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Bird samples from Mongolia confirmed as H5N1 avian flu

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has positively identified the pathogenic form of avian flu--H5N1--in samples taken from birds last week in Mongolia by field veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). It is the first instance of this viral strain occurring in wild migratory birds with no apparent contact to domestic poultry or waterfowl.

Present in Mongolia for a health survey of wild bird populations in the south and north of the country, WCS field vets Drs. William Karesh and Martin Gilbert responded to initial reports of the most recent avian influenza outbreak in Kovsgol Province near the Russian border from the Mongolian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which conducted preliminary testing of birds that died at Erkhel Lake. Their finding coincided with confirmations of cases of avian influenza in Russia and Kazakhstan. Karesh and Gilbert immediately traveled to the site with a team of Mongolian virologists, veterinarians, and public health officials. Approximately 100 dead birds were found at the site.

The team--including personnel from WCS, the Mongolian National Academy of Sciences, the Mongolian Institute of Veterinary Medicine, the State Central Veterinary Laboratory, Ministry of Food and Agriculture Veterinary Department, and the Ministry of Health Mongolian Center of Communicable Diseases with Natural Foci--collected samples from hundreds of wild birds, both live and dead including, ruddy shelduck, herring gull, black-headed gull, bar-headed goose, whooper swan, and Eurasian wigeon that are all at risk for contracting the virus.

Recent reports of influenza outbreaks in wild birds in China and Russia have failed to put die-offs in perspective with the numbers of unaffected birds, thus there was no way to assess the impact. The WCS team at Erkhel Lake in Mongolia collected this information for the first time. Overall, over 6,500 apparently healthy birds of 55 species were observed on
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Source:Wildlife Conservation Society


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