NASSAU, Bahamas – The government of the Bahamas dispatched a team of experts Wednesday to a southern island where at least 21 wild birds have been found dead in recent days of unknown causes, officials said.
The experts from the Health and the Agriculture Ministries, led by the Bahamas' chief veterinarian officer, Jeffrey Lynn, hoped to complete preliminary tests within two days, he said.
If those tests can't reveal the cause of the birds' death, laboratory investigations lasting as long as a week would be conducted in the Bahamas and possibly in the United States, according to Lynn.
"The government is committed to getting the results of the investigation as quickly as possible," Carey said.
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No birds have been detected with the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in North or South America, although a milder strain of the virus that poses no threat to humans was discovered in chickens in Colombia last October.
Experts worry that H5N1, which is sweeping through flocks in Asia, Africa and more recently Europe, could mutate into a human flu that could kill millions.
The dead migratory birds — 15 flamingos, five roseate spoon bills and a cormorant — were found this week in a national park on Great Inagua, the southernmost island in the Bahamas archipelago.
Great Inagua, which is closer to Haiti than to the Bahamian capital of Nassau, has the world's largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingos, which migrate through the Caribbean.
None of the dead birds are species that typically migrate to the Bahamas from Europe or Africa, Carney said.
U.S. authorities were monitoring the situation in the Bahamas, but Carney sounded a note of caution, noting that the birds could have died from any number of diseases such as avian botulism or avian cholera, two ailments that are not transmitted to humans.