Washington – The United States and Canada are working closely to keep watch for the introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza into North America, according to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.
With the rapid movement of this dangerous bird flu virus across Central Asia, Europe and into Africa over the last few months, U.S. officials have come to accept that the appearance of the H5N1 virus in North America is inevitable.
Even though the precise method of the disease’s spread is not fully understood, flocks of migratory birds are thought to be carriers of the virus, capable of infecting other forms of wildlife and domestic poultry.
The United States has announced a campaign to step up surveillance of migratory birds, which are expected to transport the disease out of East Asia, through the state of Alaska and into the Americas via identified flyways.
“Since Canada is situated between Alaska and [the continental United States],” Norton said in a March 24 White House webchat, “we’ve [the United States] been coordinating closely with wildlife and health officials there and will continue to work with them on this important effort.”
Given the seasonal movements of flocks from Asia through Alaska and into the Americas, Norton said it is possible that the virus could arrive in Alaska during the Northern Hemisphere spring, which began March 20.
Later in 2006, the virus could be transported further south during the autumnal migration.