Since 1998, cyclic mortality events in common eiders (Somateria mollissima) have been documented along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. Wellfleet Bay virus (WFBV) is a newly identified member of the family Orthomyxoviridae, genus Quaranjavirus, that has been associated with these cyclic events in eiders within recent years (Allison et al., 2015). Although the number of sick or dead eiders reported during these outbreaks has numbered in the hundreds to thousands, it is still unclear how the birds are being infected with the virus and what the normal transmission cycle of WFBV is (i.e., where does the virus reside in nature). NWDC staff are working with partners to coordinate ongoing research efforts by numerous non-profit organizations, state and federal wildlife agencies, and universities.
As a follow-up to this year’s workshops, we are developing training videos for the administrative assistants who handle calls related to wildlife health. Based on our discussions at the workshops, it was clear that these staff are truly the agency “first responders,” and have a critical role in timely and effective response to wildlife health events. As such, they could use guidance on how to maximize the quality and quantity of information they obtain from callers. That is, what types of questions should they ask in order to get as complete a “case history” as possible? A thorough history is critical to determining whether a mortality event warrants some kind of action by the agency. This action could be as simple as documenting the numbers and species of animal involved, or it could entail collecting specimens to send to a NWDC lab. In any event, it is critical to maximize the quality of information obtained so that an effective action may be taken by the agency.
To this end, we are organizing a conference call for Administrative Assistants at state agencies in order to gain a better understanding of the typical types of inquiries they receive related to wildlife health, as well as any challenges they have in fielding these inquiries. This information will provide essential background information that we will use to develop training videos. After the conference call, we will distribute a questionnaire to the folks who could attend the conference call and to staff who were unavailable. The questionnaire will help us to refine our understanding of the issues and inquiries faced by agency staff who fied inquiries from the public. We suggested that each member state return completed versions of their Surveillance Plans (Avian, Mammalian, Reptiles and Amphibians) to us by December 31, 2016. Once we review the plans, we will use the information, along with our findings from the questionnaires, to develop a training video for Administrative assistants. We will be relying on each member state to help us design the videos so that we can maximize their value in helping agency staff streamline their response to inquiries from the public related to wildlife health.