Although we don’t read about “bird flu” so much in the media anymore, the H5N1 “avian flu” virus continues to reemerge across much of Eurasia and Africa, with high fatality rates in people, and the continued threat of a possible global pandemic. Since 2003, H5N1 has killed 300 people, including 18 in 2010, and has led to the culling of more than 250 million domestic poultry throughout Eurasia and Africa. Sixteen countries reported H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in 2010. USGS avian ecologists and wildlife disease specialists have worked closely with United Nations and Chinese researchers to study the transmission of avian flu in wild waterfowl, contributing to the global fight against this persistent threat to global agriculture and human health. Taking advantage of USGS expertise in satellite telemetry, geospatial mapping and analysis and waterfowl migration monitoring, researchers have tracked waterfowl across Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa and discovered new flu transmission links. And while avian flu has not yet reached American soil, satellite tracking of migration paths of Asian waterfowl and American waterfowl species provide critical information which allow wildlife and health officials to discern potential versus unlikely pathways for the spread of avian flu. For more information about this study visit: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/resshow/prosser/prosser.cfm
Diann Prosser, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
John Takekawa, USGS Western Ecological Research Center
Also, check out our Top Story on Preventing Pandemics!