Teal ducks have been identified as the migrating wildfowl most likely responsible for outbreaks of avian influenza, according to a new study by the United States Geological Survey.
Agency scientists identified the migration patterns of the blue-winged teal, one of 11 dabbling duck species known to breed in North America and a common carrier of bird flu viruses, Diann Prosser of the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
It is the first-ever study to examine the movements of a waterfowl species likely to carry the virus and their relative proximity to domestic poultry facilities.
Avian influenza outbreaks this year in the United States, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have prompted many countries to impose trading bans.
The research found that facilities in northern states may be at a greater risk of AI transmission during the annual migration period between mid-September through mid-November. Commercial chicken operations in southern states may be at a greater risk of bird flu transmission during the spring migration from March through April, the report added.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) also is already expanding its surveillance of wild birds for potential avian influenza transmission in the wake of AI spread in North America.
The updated program will include sampling of birds in all four of the flyways used by wild birds that flow across North America to better understand how these birds may interact with wild birds from Europe and Asia before arriving here.
There have also been AI outbreaks in Europe this year.
Highly pathogenic AI is extremely contagious and deadly to poultry, but poses no risk to humans, other than if it mutates after people pick it up and then start passing it to others.