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DOW finds no H5N1 avian virus 
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Post DOW finds no H5N1 avian virus

Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officials collected over 3,000 samples from Canada geese around the state as part of their effort to monitor for the presence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. Preliminary results from testing at the Colorado State University Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins revealed no detection of the H5N1 strain, further supporting the findings elsewhere that H5N1 has not yet spread to North America.

“These results should help to assure Coloradoans that our resident geese presently do not harbor the H5N1 strain and only a small percentage carry the low pathogenic avian influenza viruses that occur naturally,” said Laurie Baeten, wildlife veterinarian for the DOW. “Our pilot goose testing program shows that we also should be able to detect the H5N1 strain in Colorado through similar survey efforts if that strain ever makes its way to North America and becomes prevalent.”

There are over 100 strains of avian influenza, called low pathogenic avian influenza, that occur naturally and do not cause serious illness in birds. These low pathogenic strains are known to be present in wild birds worldwide and do not pose a health risk to humans or poultry.

The goose testing did detect evidence of a low pathogenic strain of avian influenza in a few of the geese sampled. Three birds tested positive for a low pathogenic strain, none of which showed evidence of illness when samples were collected. All three positive birds were from Walden Pond, located in Boulder.

The goose testing project is part of the State of Colorado’s more comprehensive program, being conducted in cooperation with other state and federal agencies, to establish an early detection program for the H5N1 strain in case infected wild birds reach the United States or Colorado through migratory paths. “Our primary focus is on monitoring the potential interaction of local flocks that may co-mingle with migratory birds coming out of Alaska,” said Baeten.

In April of 2006, the state established a dead bird reporting system for avian influenza in conjunction with the existing system for West Nile virus. Persons who find dead wild birds or would like to report sick or dead domestic birds in their area should call the Colorado Health Emergency Line for the Public (CO HELP) at 1-877-462-2911. The emergency line staff is available to work with the public to receive and appropriately relay and coordinate any information they have about dead birds and to answer their human health questions. The protocols for handling a dead bird include:

If the bird is a waterfowl, shorebird, wild raptor or game bird, the hotline staff will collect location information on the number of dead or affected birds. If more than two birds are reported the staff will direct callers to the Division of Wildlife for follow-up.

If the bird is a songbird, hotline staff will collect location information on the number and the type of birds affected. If there are less than 4 dead songbirds, callers will be advised of proper disposal procedures. If there are 5 or more dead songbirds, callers will be directed to the Division of Wildlife.

The CO HELP hotline is operated by the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Control Center under contract to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Program. Decisions regarding the use of the hotline to take calls on reports of birds or bird-related concerns were made by the Colorado Avian Disease Surveillance Interagency Task Force, whose participants include agencies such as the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; Colorado Division of Wildlife; Department of Public Health and the Environment, USDA-AHPIS and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more information about the Division of Wildlife and Avian Influenza please go to the DOW web site at

Sat Jul 15, 2006 9:20 am
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