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Wildlife biologists and health specialists have been frustrated by a long list of negative findings in their AVM investigations, however studies continue to provide pieces of information to aid the determination of the cause and its source. Available data indicated that AVM may have been present since at least 1990, occurs in at least five states, has been documented during October through April at sites of wintering populations of birds where the exposure apparently occurs, and has killed at least 90 bald eagles. Birds with AVM have difficulty or inability to fly, swim, walk, or perch, but there has been resolution of clinical signs in some affected coots. The list of affected species continues to grow, but remains confined to wild avians, including bald eagle, American coot, great horned owl, killdeer, Canada goose, mallard, ring-necked duck and bufflehead. The effects of the AVM agent on mammals, including human beings, are unknown. A neurotoxicant of manmade or natural origin is the suspected cause of AVM because no infectious disease agents, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and prions, have been found, and the lesion and epizootiology of AVM resemble those of toxicoses. Additionally it is documented, experimentally, that exposure to raptors can occur through ingestion of infected coots.
Collaborative studies will continue in the effort to identify the cause of AVM, its geographic distribution, and the range of species susceptibility. Hopefully, this information can be used to identify measures that might be taken to reduce the impact of AVM on the wildlife resource. Multiple agencies, institutions, and individuals must rely on each other's expertise in the multidisciplinary approach to this problem, persevere in their efforts and take advantage of serendipity that presents itself during investigations of this newly recognized cause of wild bird mortality.
Additional Publication Details
Avian vacuolar myelinopathy: a newly recognized fatal neurologic disease of eagles, waterfowl, and other birds
Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference