APHIS hosts webinar on HPAI, wild bird surveillance

February 4, 2021

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) leadership and poultry experts hosted a virtual webinar on  February 2 to discuss the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Europe and East Asia. The agency also provided an update on the U.S. wild bird surveillance program and information on poultry biosecurity audits under the National Poultry Improvement Program.

APHIS provided an overview of avian influenza (AI) outbreaks from January 2020 to January 2021. Several strains of the virus are being detected, but it appears that H5 is the primary concern. In addition, H7 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is being found in wild and domestic birds across Europe. The agency also mentioned the emergence of an H9N2 low pathogenic strain, although not reportable, is causing production loss in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) is observing Alaska and the eastern United States and will continue surveillance this winter in the Atlantic and Pacific flyway. WS plans to collect over 6,000 samples to closely monitor the disease in wild birds. Current surveillance has not shown a prevalence of the H5 virus, and overall, WS finds roughly normal avian influenza prevalence in wild birds with some H7 LPAI positives.

A particular area of interest this year is that in other parts of the world, wild birds are getting sick and dying from the virus. As we move closer to the migration season, the snapshot across Europe and Asia is similar to what was happening before the 2015 outbreaks that devastated the U.S. Though wild bird surveillance may provide an early warning, the best defense is the enhanced biosecurity measures put in place following the 2015 HPAI outbreak on egg farms. UEP will share a recording of the APHIS webinar as soon as it is available.