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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bird-flu monitoring to include trapping

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

State and federal officials will begin trapping 31 species of migratory, sea and water birds throughout Hawai'i this month as part of an expanded federal program launched yesterday to monitor a deadly strain of the avian flu across the entire country and in U.S. territories in the Pacific.

Officials in Hawai'i will use mist nets to trap 50 to 200 birds of all of the species, then take blood samples before releasing them, said Paul Conry, forestry and wildlife administrator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resource's division of forestry and wildlife.

State officials have received a $100,000 federal grant for the expanded program and will work with representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture across the main Hawaiian Islands and possibly in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Conry said.

The deadly H5N1 strain of the avian flu has killed more than 100 people, mostly in Asia. If it should be detected in birds in Hawai'i, Conry said a response plan could include monitoring of domestic chickens.

Federal officials "are looking at increasing surveillance nationwide to try and have early detection of avian flu if it threatens the U.S.," Conry said. "We are participating and we are being vigilant."

Monitoring began just before summer in Alaska, where the first migratory birds from Asia began arriving.

"This move to test thousands more wild birds throughout the country will help us to quickly identify, respond and control the virus if it arrives in the United States," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "Because we cannot control wild birds, our best protection is an early warning system."

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said more coordinated monitoring by federal agencies, states and universities "will be important this fall as birds now nesting in Alaska and Canada begin their migration south through the continental United States."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.