Evira needs more wild water fowl for bird flu research


<p>The Finnish Food Safety Agency Evira monitors the incidence of avian influenza in Finnish wild birds every year. The researchers require more water fowl and birds of prey that are sick or have recently been found dead than they have received in previous years. The birds should be sent intact to Evira’s Oulu site.</p>

Specimens are particularly sought from bird feeding sites, if sick or dead water fowl are found there, such as the mallard duck and swan, or birds of prey, e.g. the goshawk and sparrow hawk. Specimens of magpies are also required.

Sending specimens is free

Sending and examination of the specimens are free to the sender. Please contact Evira’s Oulu site in advance regarding sending them. The specimen should be accompanied by a document with the sender’s contact details, location where the bird was found, date and time, and possible other observations related to the specimen. Protective gloves must be worn when handling dead birds.

Water fowl carriers of avian influenza strains

Every year, Evira examines about a hundred wild birds for avian influenza. However, a large proportion of them have been other than water fowl. Water fowl are the most important subjects for study, as they are carriers of influenza virus strains in nature.

Regular surveillance of bird flu is important, because wild birds may still carry so-called high-pathogenic influenza A virus strains that cause a disease with serious symptoms. The influenza A viruses are a diverse group of viruses particularly specific to water fowl. The majority of the virus subtypes are low in pathogenicity, but two subtypes (H5 and H7) also include viruses that may cause serious avian flu epidemics in poultry and produce large financial losses.

Poultry also monitored

High-pathogenici avian influenza has never been found in Finland. As well as in wild birds, incidence of the disease is continuously monitored also in poultry. Low-pathogenic bird flu viruses have been found in wild birds every year in surveillance studies. A low-pathogenic virus has also been isolated from farmed mallard ducks on one occasion. Protecting poultry from contact with wild birds is the most important method of preventing the viruses from spreading to poultry.

Additional information:
Senior Researcher Minna Nylund, Production Animal and Wildlife Health Research Unit t. +358 (0)40 489 3393
Oulu site t. +358 (0)29 530 4924 (sending specimens)
Senior Inspector Tiia Tuupanen, Unit for Animal Health and Welfare, t. +358 (0)40 489 3348 (avian influenza surveillance)
Senior Researcher Anita Huovilainen, Veterinary Virology Research Unit, t. +358 (0)50 544 1981 (avian influenza surveillance)

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