US gov't approves multi-million $ wild bird avian flu surveillance network

In an effort to improve the tracking of avian influenza, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded $5 million in support for a new initiative that will monitor wild bird populations for the disease around the globe, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which will spearhead the project involving more than a dozen private and public partners. Called the Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance (GAINS), the initiative has also received an additional $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to continue global monitoring and surveillance efforts underway by WCS and its network of partners.

Specifically, GAINS will help provide increased capacity to: detect avian influenza, including the highly pathogenic form of the virus, in wild migratory and resident bird populations; gain information on viral strains to track changes; use that information to guide domestic and global preparedness and vaccine development; and create an open database for real-time information sharing on highly pathogenic avian influenza and other pathogens. WCS will work in tandem with USAID, the CDC, Wetlands International, Birdlife International, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and others on the initiative. "We applaud USAID for taking this important step in the fight to prevent the spread of avian influenza," said Dr. Steven Sanderson, President and CEO of WCS. "With help from key partners across the globe, we will be able to eliminate critical gaps in our understanding of this deadly pathogen. With continued funding, this network can become a great bulwark against global threats to public health."

The funds for the new initiative were created when the President signed into law the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Pandemic Influenza (attached to the Defense Appropriations Act), which was passed by Congress in late December 2005. The package includes funds for international d

Contact: John Delaney
Wildlife Conservation Society

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