Release Date: 07/17/2007

The Avian Flu Early Detection Surveillance System, created as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services avian influenza monitoring network to check for the virus in wild waterfowl and shorebirds, made considerable progress in 2006-07. 

In year one of the system, with participation from all 50 state wildlife agencies and 43 laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, collection efforts yielded over 82,000 cloacal and 50,000 environmental samples that were analyzed for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus.  Of important note for outdoorsmen and women, none of the samples tested positive for the virus.

"This cooperative surveillance effort has been unprecedented in terms of scope and scale, with international and domestic activities thrusting Wildlife Services to the forefront in wildlife disease management," said Seth Swafford, USDA staff officer for Wildlife Diseases.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) collected over 1,000 samples from species including mallards, white-fronted geese, northern pintails, long-billed dowitchers and dunlin, the latter three among the four highest priority species in the Mississippi Flyway.

"We received great cooperation from hunters on public and private lands throughout the 2006-07 season," said Robert Helm, LDWF's waterfowl study leader.  "And Dr. Clint Jeske and the staff of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wetland Research Center in Lafayette provided invaluable assistance in most aspects of our sample collection."

LDWF will again be sampling birds for avian flu in 2007-08 starting with wood ducks during the department's pre-season banding operations in August and September.  Additional scheduled samplings include long-billed dowitchers at Catahoula Lake, as well as pintails and blue-winged teal trapped and banded there in October.

The Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study will also be sampling blue-winged teal at some wildlife management areas during the September teal season.  Other species of shorebirds will be sampled for avian flu in conjunction with a food-habitats study of shorebirds using LDWF-managed impoundments. And duck hunters at White Lake WCA and Sherburne WMA can anticipate seeing LDWF biologists conducting post-hunt samplings during the waterfowl season as well.

LDWF reminds the public when handling birds to adhere to the following guidelines:
 Do not handle birds that are obviously sick or birds found dead.
 Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand products, and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
 Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling or cleaning birds.
 Cook all game meat to at least an internal temperature of 155 degrees to kill disease organisms and parasites.
For more information on avian influenza, visit the LDWF's Web site at www.wlf.louisiana.gov.

For more information, contact Robert Helm at 225-765-2358 or rhelm@wlf.louisiana.gov.