Are Migratory Birds Spreading Bird Flu or Not?

Posted on January 9, 2006

A article says that migratory birds are not main reason bird flu is spreading.

Bird flu appears more likely to wing its away around the globe by plane than by migrating birds. Scientists have been unable to link the spread of the virus to migratory patterns, suggesting that the thousands of wild birds that have died, primarily waterfowl and shore birds, are not primary transmitters of bird flu.

If that holds true, it would suggest that shipments of domestic chickens, ducks and other poultry represents a far greater threat than does the movement of wild birds on the wing.

It also would underscore the need to pursue the virus in poultry farms and markets rather than in wild populations of birds if a possible pandemic is to be checked, U.S. and European experts said.

The H5N1 strain has infected millions of poultry throughout Asia and parts of Europe since 2003. The virus also has killed at least 71 people, many of whom had close contact with poultry.

Earlier articles have focused on migratory birds. Examples include the story about the Flamingo with bird flu in Kuwaiit and the story that migratory birds could be what brings H5N1 to the U.S. The article quotes a scientist who says the spread of bird flu would be more dramatic if migratory birds were involved in spreading the disease.
"There is more and more evidence building up that wild migratory birds do play some role in spreading the virus, but personally I believe -- and others agree -- that it's not a major role," said Ward Hagemeijer, a wild bird ecologist with Wetlands International, a conservation group in Wageningen, Netherlands. "If we would assume based on this evidence that wild birds would be a major carrier of the disease we would expect a more dramatic outbreak of the disease all over the world."
Unfortunately, bird flu doesn't appear to be having much difficulty in spreading -- with or without the help of migratory birds.

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