New group will check wild birds for flu

June 9, 2006 at 5:16 PM

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- The Wildlife Conservation Society said it has started a new network to monitor bird flu in wild bird populations.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, which is chipping in $5 million, and the Centers for Disease Control, which will donate $1 million, the new organization will be called the Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance.

GAINS will be directed by the WCS, which will work in tandem with USAID, CDC, and other groups like Wetlands International and the World Health Organization to detect avian influenza in wild migratory and resident bird populations.

GAINS will also gather information on viral mutations for use in preparedness and vaccine development, and create an open database for real-time information sharing on highly infectious flu strains and other pathogens.

The funds for the new organization were earmarked in late December 2005, when President Bush signed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Pandemic Influenza, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., into law.

William Karesh, director of WCS' Field Veterinary Program, which has monitored avian influenza globally for nearly 20 years, said, "This new initiative will greatly expand the health community's ability to look upstream to identify where the avian influenza virus is and where it may be headed."

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