Avian flu researchers seek blood samples

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are looking for 200 Anchorage-area sport hunters who have handled wild birds in the last two years.

They want blood samples from hunters for a study of the spread of avian influenza.

Researchers will look for the potentially deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu as well as low-pathogenic strains of influenza.

The H5N1 strain has not been detected in the United States and the principal investigator for the study, Dr. Michael Bruce, does not expect to find it among hunters.

Low-pathogenic strains of bird flu could appear, he said, and studying how people contracted them will help researchers understand risk factors that led to exposure.

"Some of the birds that fly through Asia fly through Alaska, so we theorized that if anyone is at risk in Alaska, it would be the hunters," Bruce said.

The study involves people from across the state who may have contracted avian influenza by different means, he said.

The study calls for a sample of 400 subsistence hunters, 200 sport hunters, 75 wildlife biologists and researchers and a control group of 200 people who have not handled wild birds, Bruce said.

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