As part of the USA’s National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, an Interagency Strategic Plan for the Early Detection of Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza in Wild Migratory Birds was developed and implemented. From 1 April 2006 through 31 March 2009, 261 946 samples from wild birds and 101 457 wild bird fecal samples were collected in the USA; no highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected. The United States Department of Agriculture, and state and tribal cooperators accounted for 213 115 (81%) of the wild bird samples collected; 31, 27, 21 and 21% of the samples were collected from the Atlantic, Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways, respectively. More than 250 species of wild birds in all 50 states were sampled. The majority of wild birds (86%) were dabbling ducks, geese, swans and shorebirds. The apparent prevalence of low pathogenic avian influenza viruses during biological years 2007 and 2008 was 9.7 and 11.0%, respectively. The apparent prevalence of H5 and H7 subtypes across all species sampled were 0.5 and 0.06%, respectively. The pooled fecal samples (n = 101 539) positive for low pathogenic avian influenza were 4.0, 6.7 and 4.7% for biological years 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively. The highly pathogenic early detection system for wild birds developed and implemented in the USA represents the largest coordinated wildlife disease surveillance system ever conducted. This effort provided evidence that wild birds in the USA were free of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (given the expected minimum prevalence of 0.001%) at the 99.9% confidence level during the surveillance period.
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