WASHINGTON, D.C. -- USDA and the Department of the Interior last week announced a detection of H5 and N1 avian influenza subtypes in a wild Green-winged teal sample from Tuscola County, Mich., that was killed by hunters.

Initial tests confirm that this wild bird sample does not contain the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe and Africa. However, initial test results do indicate the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus, which poses no threat to human health.

Fifty-one bird samples were collected on Oct. 15 through a partnership between USDA and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as part of an expanded wild bird monitoring program. USDA and DOI are working collaboratively with states to sample wild birds throughout the United States for the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). As a result of this expanded testing program, USDA and DOI expect to identify additional cases of common strains of avian influenza in birds, which is not cause for concern.

Of the 51 samples collected from a number of wild bird species, five were sent to USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, for confirmatory testing. One sample tested positive for both H5 and N1 subtypes. This does not mean these birds are infected with an H5N1 strain.

It is possible that there could be two separate avian influenza viruses, one containing H5 and the other containing N1. Confirmatory testing underway at NVSL will clarify whether one or more strains of the virus are present, the specific subtype, as well as confirm the pathogenicity. These results are expected within two to three weeks and will be made public when completed.

Low pathogenic avian influenza commonly occurs in wild birds. It typically causes only minor sickness or no noticeable symptoms in birds. These strains of the virus include LPAI H5N1, commonly referred to as "North American" H5N1, which is very different from the more severe HPAI H5N1 circulating overseas.

There is no known health risk to hunters or hunting dogs from contact with low pathogenic forms of avian influenza virus. Nevertheless, hunters are always encouraged to use common sense sanitation practices, such as hand washing and thorough cooking, when handling or preparing wildlife of any kind. DOI has issued guidelines for safe handling and preparation of wild game.

For more information about USDA's efforts and research related to avian influenza, go to www.usda.gov/birdflu.

SOURCE: USDA news release.