Wild ducks in Illinois test positive for "low pathogenic" Bird Flu virus

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Sunday, October 1, 2006

A pair of Green-winged Teals (male at the rear) duck

The United States Department of Agriculture has announced that 5 out of 11 wild migratory Green-winged Teals have tested positive for a "low pathogenic sub type" of the H5 and N1 Avian Flu virus or Bird Flu virus, but also say that this is not the same type of Avian Flu that has killed over 150 people worldwide and that the detection poses "no threat to humans."

"Initial tests confirm that these wild duck samples do not contain the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe and Africa. These samples were collected from apparently healthy birds and initial test results indicate the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus, which poses no threat to human health," said the USDA in a statement on its website.

Samples from the ducks were retrieved on September 24, 2006 and were found in the Rice Lake Conservation Area of Fulton County located in Illinois. The USDA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources tested the samples as part of a Bird Flu monitoring program. The USDA also says that they do not expect to find any "additional cases of common strains of avian influenza in birds."

"These strains of the virus include LPAI H5N1, commonly referred to as "North American" H5N1, which is very different from the more severe HPAI H5N1 circulating overseas," said the statement.

The ducks are not believed to be infected with the deadly H5N1 virus, but officials say both subtypes H5 and N1 have been found in the samples.

"Eleven samples were collected directly from the ducks. Of those samples, a pool of five samples tested positive for H5 and were sent to USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, for confirmatory testing. One of the five samples screened by NVSL tested positive for both H5 and N1. However, this does not mean these ducks are infected with an H5N1 strain. It is possible that there could be two separate avian influenza viruses, one containing H5 and the other containing N1," continued the statement.

The USDA adds that the virus can cause "minor sickness or no noticeable symptoms in birds," but that these ducks were all healthy. The USDA also said that hunters and hunting dogs are not at risk for any infection, as these ducks are commonly hunted.

"Duck populations, including Green-winged Teal, are commonly hunted. There is no known health risk to hunters or hunting dogs from contact with low pathogenic forms of avian influenza virus. Nevertheless, hunters are always encouraged to use common sense sanitation practices, such as hand washing and thorough cooking, when handling or preparing wildlife of any kind," added the statement.

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