USDA, DOI AND STATE PARTNERS BEGIN MONITORING WILD MIGRATORY BIRDS IN LOWER 48 FOR AVIAN INFLUENZA
WASHINGTON, August 9, 2006- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today announced that their departments are expanding wild bird monitoring for highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI H5N1) beyond Alaska through cooperative agreements and projects made with the lower 48 states, Hawaii and other Pacific islands.
"We are working on several fronts to combat highly pathogenic avian influenza around the world and here at home," said Secretary Johanns. "Because we cannot control wild birds, our best protection is an early warning system and this move to test thousands more wild birds throughout the country will help us to quickly identify, respond and control the virus, if it arrives in the United States."
Interior Secretary Kempthorne noted that a robust monitoring effort helps to ensure early detection should migratory birds carry this virus to North America. "These coordinated federal and state testing programs will be important this fall as birds now nesting in Alaska and Canada begin their migration south through the continental United States," Kempthorne said.
As part of the "An Early Detection System for H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Wild Migratory Birds -- U.S. Interagency Strategic Plan," USDA has completed cooperative agreements with 48 states thus far and is finalizing agreements with 2 states, which cover all 50 states in the four major U.S. migratory bird flyways. These agreements provide nearly $4 million for state agencies to sample specific species of migratory birds at appropriate sites under plans coordinated through the four national flyway councils.
Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized cooperative agreements with California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington as well as an agreement with Hawaii which will be completed soon. Thus far, these states and other cooperators have received $1.9 million from the Service to implement monitoring strategies in each state's surveillance plan.
The five monitoring strategies were developed cooperatively among USDA, DOI and the states to ensure that priority wild bird species are sampled comprehensively throughout the southern Pacific Flyway and Pacific Islands. Together with Alaska, these are the priority areas identified by the national strategy because birds migrating from Asia intermingle with those that nest or overwinter primarily in these locations.
Because wild migratory birds are not controlled by boundaries and are found throughout the United States, USDA and DOI are teaming up with states to collect 75,000 to 100,000 wild bird samples along with 50,000 environmental samples throughout the United States, including Alaska, the lower 48 states, and Hawaii, Guam, U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.
The Alaska testing program, which is carried out by USDA, DOI, the State of Alaska and the University of Alaska, has been underway for several months and has tested nearly 10,000 wild birds, but no HPAI H5N1 has been detected. As birds from Alaska and Canada begin their southerly migration from these breeding grounds, state, federal and university biologists will capture and sample various species in every state.
Specific wild bird sampling locations in each state depend on the weather and habitat conditions at the time of bird migration. State wildlife agencies, working through interagency groups, will determine the locations of the sampling sites as migration occurs and areas are identified where large groups of migratory birds are congregating. Sampling areas will include public lands (such as, national and state wildlife refuges, national and state parks) private lands with landowner approval and urban/suburban areas (such as ponds and city parks).
The national wild bird monitoring plan is part of the President's National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. President Bush allocated $29 million in his Fiscal Year 2006 avian influenza supplemental funding package for implementation of the wild bird monitoring plan. This funding was allocated to USDA and DOI.
Of the $17 million USDA received from the supplemental, nearly $4 million has been given to states through cooperative agreements for expanded wild bird monitoring. The remainder of the funding supports USDA sampling efforts, the purchase of sampling kits and the diagnostic costs for analyzing both bird and environmental samples. Of the $12 million DOI received, approximately $2.5 million has been dedicated to support state wildlife agencies and other partner organizations in collecting additional samples from wild birds. The balance is being used to support DOI sampling efforts, analyzing samples and creating a data management system for the state-federal wild bird sampling effort.