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August 29, 2005

A bum rap for wild birds?

New Scientist has a story about the Brussels conference: Bird flu knocks on Europe's door. As always, NS offers a clear and readable account, this time with a different angle: avian flu may be moving west not in migrating wild birds, but in domestic poultry whose owners are just taking care of business.

Evidence for spread by wild birds is circumstantial. Yevgeny Nepoklonov, head of the veterinary department of the Russian Agriculture Ministry, told the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) in Paris this month that in the six territories where outbreaks have been reported, "the first [domestic] birds to be affected are those kept in homes close to reservoirs"— where wild birds may visit.

On the other hand, not one healthy wild bird carrying highly pathogenic H5N1 has yet been reported, apart from a few carrying a somewhat different virus in Hong Kong in 2002. Hon Ip, a virologist at the US National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, US, notes that in Russia's report on Novosibirsk to the OIE, the H5N1 virus it had isolated from a wild duck was different from the viruses isolated in its domestic poultry.

Posted by dymaxion at August 29, 2005 01:58 PM

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