USGS ‘Eggcelling’ with Bird Flu Research Strategy

The first thing most consumers check when purchasing eggs at a grocery store is whether or not any of them are broken, but nowadays consumers are checking something else even before they reach for the carton…the price.  The recent outbreak of avian influenza viruses, including the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, H5N1, are causing significant “agricultural economic losses” and greatly impacting the price of eggs and other consumer-products that include eggs.

Avian influenza viruses, which naturally occur in wild birds and usually do not cause any harm, can become “highly pathogenic” and deadly if spread to poultry farms.  Also important to note is that if avian flu viruses, which are not harmful to humans, were to combine with certain “mammalian viruses”, new strains could possibly be created that could affect humans and lead to a possible pandemic.

To assist with tracking the migration of avian influenza, gain a better understanding of the “factors affecting the persistence of HPAI in wild birds, and to forecast the future spread of HPAI,” the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has created a research strategy focused on five goals:

  1. Augment National HPAI Surveillance Plan
  2. Determine Mechanisms of HPAI Disease Spread in Wildlife and the Environment
  3. Characterize HPAI Viruses Circulating in Wildlife
  4. Understand Implications of Avian Ecology on HPAI Spread
  5. Develop HPAI Forecasting and Decision-making Tools

The overall goal of this strategy is to forecast the future spread of the viruses by wild birds, detect new strains of the avian flu, determine how the viruses survive in the environment, and to provide natural resource managers, poultry farmers, and public health officials with better risk assessment tools.

To learn more about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and other types of Pandemic Influenza, be sure to check out the Homeland Security Digital Library’s Featured Topics section.

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