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New Mexico: Bosque surveillance in waterfowl

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  • New Mexico: Bosque surveillance in waterfowl

    Testing reveals nothing 'fowl' at Bosque

    Nat Holland El Defensor Chieftain Reporter

    The New Mexico Department of Game & Fish recently finished testing approximately 1,200 waterfowl around the state for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu strain. The testing turned up no signs of the virus.

    Waterfowl, mainly various duck species, were targeted at Bosque del Apache, Bernardo, New Mexico Tech and other sites. The ducks are captured and then swabbed to obtain a sample for testing. The birds are then tagged with leg bands and released back into the wild.
    "It's highly precautious," Colin Lee, a wildlife biologist at the Bosque del Apache, said of the testing. "Sampling has been done since the avian flu has been on the radar."
    No cases of the highly pathogenic version of avian flu have been found in the U.S and people should not be concerned about contact with waterfowl.
    "Primarily it is a bird disease still and it's very difficult for humans to contract it," said Tim Mitchusson, a Game & Fish employee. "People shouldn't be worried about being around birds right now."
    If an outbreak does occur, "in the wild there's not much you can do," said Mitchusson, but hunting can be restricted and protocols are in place to prevent the spread to poultry manufacturers and minimize human exposure.
    Testing for the virus has been conducted annually in the state for the last three years with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Animal and Plant Health Testing Service program.
    "The program will probably be ongoing as long as outbreaks continue to happen in southeast Asia," said Mitchusson. "This is one way to monitor if it has entered the U.S., but it also allows us to measure other versions of influenza."
    To date, no cases of avian flu have been reported in the Western Hemisphere.