WATERFORD, Conn. - Hundreds of birds are being captured, tagged, and returned to their habitats in Connecticut as part of a national effort to track bird flu.
Several mallards were banded with a metal leg ring recently, and cotton swabs that had been inserted into their throats were sealed into marked vials.
Wildlife biologist Min Huang, head of the state Department of Environmental Protection's migrating game bird program, is about halfway toward a goal of swabbing 750 birds. The samples go to a University of Connecticut laboratory for initial screening.
Any that test positive for one of 40 or so varieties of avian flu virus are sent to a federal lab in Madison, Wis., for more precise identification. The possibility of a widespread outbreak among poultry and subsequent economic losses are considered a more immediate threat in Connecticut than human disease, Huang said.
Connecticut is home to 17,000 registered backyard poultry flocks, many of which are free-ranging and could come in contact with wild birds carrying the virus.
Of the samples collected so far, the low pathogenic form of the virus has been detected only twice, in Canada geese trapped in Stonington this year and mallards trapped last year in Wethersfield, Huang said.
If any samples with the highly pathogenic type are found, he said, he would return to areas where he found the birds and sample extensively. Huang and his staff also would check commercial or backyard poultry flocks in the surrounding area.