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August 31, 2005

Reuters AlertNet - Experts see Alaska as US front against bird flu

Reuters AlertNet - Experts see Alaska as US front against bird flu: "Experts see Alaska as US front against bird flu


30 Aug 2005 17:33:09 GMT



Source: Reuters



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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent


WASHINGTON, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Bird experts working in some of the most remote areas of Alaska have begun checking migrating birds for avian influenza to see if they are spreading the feared virus out of Asia.


A team heads off later this week for the Alaskan Peninsula to test Steller's eiders, a type of duck, for the virus, U.S. Geological Survey experts said. Other teams have already begun testing geese and ducks in other refuges, taking advantage of regular ecological studies to test birds migrating from Asia for the H5N1 virus.


'We think that Alaska is likely to be the front line,' said Hon Ip, a virologist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Other states are vulnerable, too, he said.


'There are birds that fly directly across the Pacific from Southeast Asia to our western states like California, Oregon and Washington,' Ip added in a telephone interview.


The H5N1 avian influenza virus, which re-emerged in China in 2003, has caused the death or destruction of more than 100 million birds across Asia, from Japan to Russia's Siberia. Migrating birds in China and Mongolia have been found to be infected with the virus.


So far it has killed more than 50 people, although it does not easily infect humans. Experts fear it will eventually acquire the ability to spread easily from person to person and cause a global pandemic of exceptionally deadly influenza.


No one is sure how it is spreading, but migrating birds are a prime suspect. Officials fear birds such as ducks and"

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Posted by dymaxion at August 31, 2005 12:46 PM

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