Waterfowl (ducks) are the natural reservoir for avian influenza viruses. While only the highly pathogenic, or disease-causing, forms of the virus are of public concern, there are many different low pathogenic strains of avian influenza. Many of these strains circulate normally in waterfowl populations and cause no apparent disease. However, certain strains can be problematic for domestic poultry where they can cause disease, as well as undergo mutation that makes them more pathogenic for other birds and possibly humans.
As part of the Minnesota Center for Excellence in Influenza Research (MCEIRS), a project funded by the National Institutes of Health, The Raptor Center is leading efforts to test wild ducks in the upper Central Flyway (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota) for the presence of avian influenza viruses and to identify what strains are found in these populations.
Katie Burns, lead field technician for the efforts this fall, will send some journal entries and photos we will post to let you know how the efforts are going!