The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has positively identified the pathogenic form of avian flu -- H5N1 -- in samples taken from birds last week in
Present in Mongolia for a health survey of wild bird populations in the south and north of the country, WCS field vets Drs. William Karesh and Martin Gilbert responded to initial reports of the most recent avian influenza outbreak in Kovsgol Province near the Russian border from the Mongolian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which conducted preliminary testing of birds that died at Erkhel Lake. Their finding coincided with confirmations of cases of avian influenza in
The team -- including personnel from WCS, the Mongolian National Academy of Sciences, the Mongolian Institute of Veterinary Medicine, the State Central Veterinary Laboratory, Ministry of Food and Agriculture Veterinary Department, and the Ministry of Health Mongolian Center of Communicable Diseases with Natural Foci -- collected samples from hundreds of wild birds, both live and dead including, ruddy shelduck, herring gull, black-headed gull, bar-headed goose, whooper swan, and Eurasian wigeon that are all at risk for contracting the virus.
Recent reports of influenza outbreaks in wild birds in
Supported by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the team has sent the samples (774 in total) to the USDA's Poultry Research Laboratory in
Whereas prior outbreaks in wild birds have happened either in close proximity to infected domestic poultry and waterfowl, or in regions where such contact could not be excluded,
The multidisciplinary, collaborative response to this latest outbreak reflects the WCS One World-One Health approach to making informed, multidisciplinary decisions on global health crises that intersect human, wildlife, and livestock health. WCS experts are warning that to contain this potential epidemic, prevention activities must include better management practices in farms, especially those that are small and open-air, where domestic poultry and waterfowl are allowed to intermingle with wild birds. Officials would also need to monitor wildlife markets-where wild and domesticated species are kept in close proximity, and risk exposure to a wide range of pathogens.
Wildlife and health experts, including the FAO, maintain that indiscriminate culling of wild migratory bird populations would be ineffective in preventing the spread of avian flu. "Focusing our limited resources on the hubs and activities where humans, livestock, and wildlife come into close contact," says Karesh, director of WCS's Field Veterinary Program, who lead the WCS team in Mongolia, is "the best hope for successfully preventing the spread of avian flu and protecting both people and animals."