In a study recently published by the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists found that avian influenza genomes from the 2014-2015 outbreak likely originated from Asia and infected and spread among North American wild birds.
Though the possibility of wild birds spreading disease to domestic poultry is low thanks to biosecurity efforts, Dan Grear, a disease ecologist with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, says that there is still a risk to domesticated poultry due to the virus’ genetic makeup.
“Our analyses showed that HPAI viruses can adapt easily to novel species and environments,” Grear said.
The virus can even adapt to infecting humans, like the strain that China has been fighting since 2016 which has infected hundreds of people.
So far, no highly pathogenic avian influenza strains have been seen in the U.S. in several months and no strain of the virus has been able to infect humans in several years, but scientists remain diligent on their search for any signs or reports of the disease.
The problem is tracking avian influenza through wild birds is difficult because there are so many birds migrating from all around the nation and sometimes from other parts of the world. However, the scientists in the study say there is a new, more efficient method of analysis to help report wild birds and waterfowl that could be infected.