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Over 3400 Dead Ducks in Idaho
Recombinomics Commentary
December 14, 2006

They went out and cleaned up about 2,200 of the ducks Tuesday night. Wednesday morning Fish and Game agents cleaned up 1,200 more.

The investigation includes Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Agriculture and South Central District Health.

The dead birds include local and migrating ducks.

One disease they fear is the avian flu, so the Department of Homeland Security is involved.

They also found hemorrhaging around the heart. At this point in time, however we are not ruling out any potential cause.

 The above comments from media reports describe a massive die-off of over 3400 local and migratory mallards in Land Creek Springs near Oakley, Idaho 20 miles from the borders of Nevada and Utah.  This die-off has led to a multi-agency investigation, which includes Homeland Security.

Although the birds have bacterial lesions on their lungs, the hemorrhaging around the heart signals an acute infection, which has been seen in H5N1 patients, such as the index case in Iraq, which was caused by the Qinghai strain of H5N1.

The mounting death toll is also similar to the die off of bar-headed geese at Qinghai Lake in May, 2005.  Bird flu was initially ruled out, but by the time the OIE report was filed, the number of dead birds grew from 178 to 519 and within a few weeks exceeded 6000.

These parallels have contributed to the level of attention this die-off is receiving.  Canada has also issued a warning to residents north of the Idaho outbreak to report dead birds.  Similar requests were made of Toronto residents late last month.

Although the United States and Canada have had increased surveillance programs this year, most of the effort has focused on live or hunter killed birds.  Over 45,000 have been tested and all reported H5N1 has been North American low path, which was also found last year in Canada.  However, only about 1000 dead or dying birds have been tested in the United States even though all prior reports of H5N1 live wild birds from other countries have been preceded by reports of H5N1 in dead birds.  Thus, an emphasis of testing of more dead birds is warranted. H5N1 positive samples were identified in September in Montana, although only H5N3 was isolated. In May a dead goose on Prince Edward Island was H5 PCR positive, but the size of the insert was withheld. and the PCR positive was not confirmed in Winnipeg. This was followed by a large number of influenza positive wild birds on Prince Edward Island.

Details of test results would be useful, as would requests for more reports of dead or dying wild birds in the United States and Canada.

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