Read Ann Potempa’s article to find out where the swabbing begins.
Experts will test birds for signs of avian flu
and read
Sampling Bird Cloaca

USDA Madison, Wisconsin laboratory

Bird flu detectives at work here, Lab will test for virus in samples from Alaska
By Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press, Published: May 23, 2006

“When West Nile virus started, nobody knew what was going on,” and the germ started killing people before scientists realized it had been killing birds, he said. With bird flu, “we have the advantage of being able to sit down and plan things out” to try to find it and prevent an epidemic, Wright said.

Tests will signal within a day whether the deadly H5N1 flu is present….

…they expect to analyze more than 11,000 swabs from trapped, healthy birds plus about 4,000 dead birds, starting with 400 samples arriving today or Wednesday from 10 villages in the Yukon delta region of western Alaska, where hunters recently shot migrating ducks and geese for food.

Also coming are samples taken over the weekend from healthy migrating shorebirds in coastal marsh areas near Anchorage. [see reference I will post later]

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be testing droppings from tens of thousands of birds around the country.

Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University

U.S. Labs Ready Complex Bird Flu Testing
By LIBBY QUAID, AP Food and Farm Writer, May 24, 2006, 8:24 AM EDT

AMES, Iowa — The government’s elaborate network for diagnosing bird flu will eventually come down to a sprawling 640-acre campus in the Iowa countryside where strict security is the only hint of the crucial role scientists there could play in a national drama that the country hopes will never materialize….

The labs — normally off-limits to anyone but the scientists who work there — were opened Tuesday to journalists for a walkthrough of the nation’s only internationally recognized bird flu testing program.

Researchers test for bird flu, mad cow disease and many other animal diseases on the 640-acre campus near Iowa State University….

…The first phase started in Alaska, where thousands of migratory birds will be captured and swabbed. The birds are considered natural reservoirs for bird flu and can harbor hundred of different flu viruses.

Samples will be shipped to a network of laboratories across the country for screening. If a sample contains evidence of the H5 virus, it then gets shipped to Ames, where tests are run over several days to determine if the infected bird carried the H5N1 strain.

First, virus from the sample is injected in bird eggs, which are tested five days later to determine whether it is one of 144 strains of bird flu or whether it is another disease such as Exotic Newcastle, which is harmless to humans but deadly to poultry.

If it contains bird flu, the sample is tested to determine whether it is H5N1 or another of the avian influenzas. Only those testing positive for H5N1 go to the lab with the caged chickens.

Eight of these birds, specially bred and disease-free, are injected with virus from the suspect sample. Perhaps within hours, certainly in two days, the birds will begin moving more slowly, perhaps hunching in the corner of the cage and no longer eating and drinking. Their wattles might turn from bright orange to blue.

“If you lose 75 percent of the chickens, or more, then it’s high-path,” said Brundaben Panigrahy, head of the lab’s avian section, using scientists’ shorthand for the lethal strain of Asian bird flu.

Although the test results will be announced publicly, likely by officials in Washington,
Granger said this will not be a signal of a threat to humans.