Friday, July 07, 2006

State Testing Birds For Avian Flu
David Hahn

State Testing Birds For Avian Flu
Grant Seeks To Track Signs Of Bird Flu

POSTED: 4:40 pm CDT July 6, 2006
UPDATED: 5:28 pm CDT July 6, 2006

OMAHA, Neb. -- Nebraska Game and Parks biologists are beginning to test for the bird flu as part of a national surveillance program that seeks to learn whether the virus hitting Asia and Europe will spread to North America.

On Thursday, biologists set up nets to trap migratory birds.

"Hopefully they frighten or get scared and go into the net and are easily captured," said Joel Jorgensen, with Nebraska Game and Parks.

Jorgensen netted a killdeer, and samples were collected and sent to a lab in Lincoln. Scientists are especially interested in the birds that have been breeding in Siberia over the winter.

"Since the bird flu already is in Asia, when they interact with one another, that would be a possible vector for the bird flu to come into America," Jorgensen said.

The concern is that a flu strain could mutate into a virus that could be passed from human to human, causing a world pandemic. The federal government is paying for live testing in every state this summer and fall. Nebraska alone received $100,000. Biologists said the large grant was awarded because the state is in the main flyways for most migratory birds.

"When you start looking at the ramifications of what this could mean, it's pretty important," said Mark Vrtiska, with Nebraska Game and Parks.

Over the next few months, 1,000 different birds will be tested in Nebraska, including ducks, geese, Sandhill Cranes and smaller shore birds.


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