Wildlife officials to start conducting bird flu tests


As the migratory game bird season gets under way, wildlife officials announced this week that they will begin their annual testing of bagged game birds for the avian flu. Participation is voluntary, and biologists will test the birds' respiratory and digestive tracks at several duck-hunting hot spots throughout the state.

The sampling is part of an international surveillance effort to determine whether migratory birds carry the deadly flu. Last year, more than 65,000 samples were collected nationwide, including more than 1,200 samples in Florida. None of the samples tested positive. It is "extremely unlikely" that hunters could be infected by wild birds in Florida.

People should not handle sick or dead birds but should report all sightings of dead birds at MyFWC.com/bird. Wild birds involved in die-offs will be collected, examined and tested for avian influenza, West Nile virus, exotic Newcastle disease and other infectious illnesses.

The avian flu virus is very contagious among birds but does not transmit easily to humans. Since November 2003, nearly 400 cases of human infection have been documented in outbreaks in Asia, Europe and Africa. Over half have died.

The virus has never been detected among wild birds, domestic poultry, or people in the United States. However, health officials are concerned that the virus could develop into another form that spreads readily from person to person, triggering a global disease outbreak known as a pandemic.

(From www.palmbeachpost.com)