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Environmental groups call for avian influenza vaccine

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A group of nearly 30 environmental groups have written to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Fish and wildlife Service, asking them to move forward with “the rapid development, emergency approval, and swift deployment of a vaccine again the current HPAI strain jeopardizing the existence of the endangered California condor.”

California condors (Gymnogyps californianus), which are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, are found in a handful of populations in the American southwest. The USFWS, APHIS, and other parties are currently responding to an outbreak of avian influenza among the condors along the Arizona/Utah border. According to a recent update from the USFWS, 21 of the flock’s 116 condors have died from avian influenza as of May 5.

The letter, drafted the Center for Biological Diversity and signed by the American Bird Conservancy and others, notes that, “While there are currently no approved vaccines against the current strain of HPAI, a vaccine has already been approved for use in wildlife in other parts of the world. Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) is testing vaccines and expects to have results by June, every day of delay matters and leads to potentially more condor deaths.”

It continues, “There is a vital need to contain this outbreak and prevent further spread among condor populations as spring migration increases transmission. These circumstances necessitate expedited development and emergency approval of a vaccine regiment to protect the California condor.”

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