Alaska Science Center
Avian Influenza Overview
Avian influenza (AI) or "bird flu" is a viral disease that primarily infects domestic poultry and wild birds. While most strains are considered low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and do not lead to severe illness, highly pathogenic (HPAI) strains cause significant mortality to domestic fowl and in some cases in wild birds.
The USGS Role and Response to HPAI in North America
The USGS conducts research on avian influenza at multiple science centers across the nation. Scientists are defining the role of migratory birds in viral spread, characterizing genetics of viruses in wild birds, determining water conditions affecting survival of the virus in wetlands, and describing stages of infection in migratory birds. A USGS fact sheet and Science Strategy document describe the role and response of the USGS to HPAI in North America.
Harris, M. C., A. K. Miles, J. M. Pearce, D. J. Prosser, D. J. Sleeman, and M. E. Whalen. 2015. USGS highly pathogenic avian influenza research strategy. USGS Fact Sheet 2015-3060, 4p. doi:10.3133/fs20153060 [Details] [Full Publication]
Harris, M. C., et al. 2016. U.S. Geological Survey science strategy for highly pathogenic avian influenza in wildlife and the environment (2016–2020). USGS Open-File Report 2016-1121. doi:10.3133/ofr20161121 [Details] [Full Publication]
HPAI Surveillance and Research
Concerns for human health and the impacts of HPAI strains on domestic and wild birds have prompted an inter-agency surveillance program to monitor and provide scientific data on the virus. The USGS has been part of this effort since 2006 and has contributed significant scientific information and analytical advances for decision-making by domestic poultry and natural resource agencies. The USGS continues to conduct surveillance and research each year on wild, migratory birds throughout North America.
Alaska's Role in the Potential Introduction of Highly Pathogenic Influenza
Alaska is a geographically important focus of the surveillance program because it lies within the migratory routes of birds that move between North America and Asia. Because of these migratory routes, Alaska is a likely location for initial introductions of foreign-origin avian diseases.
Avian Influenza Research and the USGS Alaska Science Center
Research at the Alaska Science Center strengthens the efficiency and effectiveness of HPAI surveillance across North America, while increasing our understanding of virus ecology in wild bird hosts. The Alaska Science Center uses migratory, genetic and immunological data to: identify likely routes of virus introduction, determine priority species and regions to sample, and document changes to the genetic diversity of avian influenza that will strengthen future decision-making.