Scientists Test Pacific Birds For Avian Flu

Scott Fretz
Scott Fretz

by Joann Shin

(KHNL) Avian Influenza, or bird flu has been detected in Europe and Asia.

U.S. Wildlife officials fear the virus could reach Hawaii through migratory birds.

At the James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on O'ahu, State and Federal agencies are now conducting tests for the bird flu.

The birds are trapped, a sample is taken, and placed in liquid nitrogen to be shipped to a lab for further testing.

"Our concern as wildlife mangers of the state and our role in this partnership is to monitor any movement of the disease in any migratory wild birds across the pacific", said Wildlife program manager, Dr. Scott Fretz.

Every year, wild birds migrate to the Pacific from Asia, where the avian flu has been detected.

Officials say that's why the tests are so important.

"So that if the virus ever does reach North America across Asia and gets in migratory birds," Fretz says, "we'll detect it as soon as possible as it migrates in the through the Pacific."

Since April, nearly 10,000 wild bird samples have been collected in other parts of the country.

All of the samples tested negative for the most severe form of the virus.

"There's the possibility that the virus can mutate and become very good at transferring itself from person to person and right now, the virus cannot do that, so that's the real fear," says Fretz.