Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Migratory birds tested in Maine for avian flu

Migratory birds tested in Maine for avian flu
July 10, 2006

BANGOR, Maine --Hundreds of Canada geese and other migratory birds are being captured and tested by Maine state biologists for avian flu.

The testing of Canada geese, Arctic terns, common eiders and black guillemots by state Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists is being done to check for early signs of the bird flu virus before it channels over to Maine's commercial bird flock.

Biologists may end up testing hundreds if not thousands of birds before the program ends later this year.

Last week, biologists went to a pond near Rockport that's home to 80 to 100 Canada geese. The visit was timed to coincide with a period when the birds are molting, meaning most are unable to fly and are easier to capture.

Biologists in canoes corralled the geese toward a V-shaped pen set up at one end of Tolman Pond. Once the birds were removed to smaller cages, biologists collected fecal samples with long swab sticks.

Samples are sent to a lab in Connecticut for testing, and the results are sent to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Canada geese are a favored choice of birds for testing because they often mingle with other species of migrating birds, said Michael Schummer, a game bird specialist who led last Friday's roundup in Rockport.

"There's a fair number of them, they are easy to catch, they are statewide, so they are a good sentry bird," Schummer said. "If anything is going to pick (the bird flu) up, it seems likely to me and to other biologists that it would be the Canada goose."

So far, no birds in Maine or anywhere else in the United States have tested positive for the H5N1 strain, which has devastated poultry flocks in Southeast Asia and appeared on two other continents.

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On the Net:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, avian flu site: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/

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Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com



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