Oregon duck found to be infected with bird flu, strain undetermined

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2015 - A wild mallard duck shot by a hunter last month in Morrow County, Oregon, has tested positive for Eurasian H5 avian influenza. USDA has yet to determine the virus' strain, or if commercial poultry flocks are in danger.

“We were able to confirm that the sample was positive for H5 avian influenza, but because of the low level of genetic material present in the sample we received, we were not able to determine the exact strain, nor whether it was highly pathogenic or low pathogenic avian influenza,” said Lyndsay Cole, the assistant director of public affairs for USDA's Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS), in an email to Agri-Pulse Tuesday.

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Cole said APHIS sent a message to its stakeholders Friday with the test results. It also explained that, along with its wildlife partnerships, it plans to collect samples from more than 40,000 wild birds in the year ending July 1, 2016, in an effort to monitor the avian flu threat and to protect commercial poultry, live bird markets and migratory bird populations. More than 24,000 thousand samples have already been collected, the agency says.

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Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the last 12 months have resulted in the deaths of 7.75 million commercial turkeys and 40.3 million chickens, costing the U.S. government approximately $191 million in indemnity funding. Among the most deadly strains found were H5N8, a Eurasian virus, and H5N2, a mix of Eurasian and North American strains.

USDA declared the U.S. free of highly pathogenic avian influenza on Nov. 18, although the last confirmed case of high-path bird flu was found in Iowa in mid-June, according to APHIS.

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