Scientists Testing Feces to Monitor Bird Flu Outbreak

( – A Bird Flu outbreak that has affected dairy cows and spread to two humans, has prompted some interesting ways to monitor the situation.

Scientists have said that wastewater monitoring in the United States has started and they are encouraging community members to collect waste samples from birds. This will help experts keep an eye on the spread of the virus in hopes of catching a potential pandemic before it becomes fully widespread.

A new dashboard to monitor influenza A will be used to track the Bird Flu, and although it doesn’t track it specifically, it does track all influenza A variants, which includes the Bird Flu.

Professor Marc Johnson out of the University of Missouri School of Medicine said, “I’m really pleased to see that they’re sharing the data that they have.”

Philip Meade, the lead author of the study that discovered the first Bird flu-infected human in New York, said “There is a lot of potential for citizen science, particularly to increase the scope of surveillance. It is difficult to have a total understanding of the viruses that are circulating in our environment.”

Virus Hunters, a citizen science program where people can help gather data on these viruses, could be expanded to many other areas. Experts have put a lot of emphasis on how important this citizen participation is.

One of the challenges associated with the Bird Flu is that many of the animals are asymptomatic and animals would only be tested for disease once they’re noticeably sick. Being able to sample the animals non-invasively can allow them to catch the virus even if there are no present symptoms.

“Whether it’s coming from cattle or humans or birds or whatever, let’s get an idea of how much is there, so if there’s a change, we know to pay attention,” Professor Johnson said. “We need a baseline of what’s going on so we can see if things are getting worse or getting better.”

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