K-State joins national effort to monitor cases of avian flu

Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 8:17 AM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - K-State has joined the effort to protect the nation’s birds by monitoring cases of avian influenza in the Midwest.

Kansas State University says one of its labs is now part of a federal effort to monitor cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Kansas and surrounding states.

K-State noted that the Molecular Services unit of is Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine is part of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture - Wildlife Services National Wildlife Disease Program. It said the program is the largest in the national avian flu surveillance effort for U.S. wild bird populations.

“Although highly pathogenic avian influenza has not been detected in Kansas since April 2022, fall bird migrations pose a reintroduction risk that could once again threaten domestic bird populations,” said Lance Noll, clinical assistant professor at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The University indicated that the highly pathogenic bird flu is a contagious and sometimes deadly virus that threatens domestic bird populations - especially poultry.

“Surveillance testing is an important tool for detecting and identifying the distribution of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild bird populations, as well as for the potential spread of the virus into new areas of concern,” Noll said. “Through participation in this surveillance program, the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is contributing to ongoing efforts of early detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza for the state of Kansas.”

K-State said the diagnostic lab’s sampling efforts began in May and will continue through February 2023. Efforts focus primarily on dabbling ducks from hunter harvest, agency harvest or live capture and release. Samples that test positive for avian flu and the H5 sub-type are considered presumptive positives and are forwarded to the national lab in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation and strain identification.

“Our Molecular Services lab has been testing wild bird surveillance samples from Kansas, as well as many from Texas and Oklahoma,” Noll said. “This is a nationwide surveillance program and we are one of many National Animal Health Network labs across the country who are participating in the effort.”

In September, K-State said highly positive avian influenza H5N1-positive wild birds have been found in several neighboring states, including Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa. Confirmed cases in commercial or backyard poultry operations have also recently been reported across the region, including in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas and Minnesota.

“Veterinary practitioners are trained to identify and help design disease containment programs for many species, including poultry,” said Gregg Hanzlicek, a K-State veterinarian and director of production animal field investigations for the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. “If your flock experiences any health issue, please contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible.”

To stay apprised of the most recent developments of avian influenza, click HERE.