Friday, December 09, 2005

News - Surfbirds News: Autumn waterbird migration ends without spread of H5N1 bird flu

As the year draws to a close, millions of wild birds have flown to their wintering sites across, Asia,
Africa, Europe and the Americas without the widely predicted outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu associated with their migration routes.

"The most obvious explanation is that migrating wild birds are not spreading the disease," said Dr Michael Rands, Director & Chief Executive of BirdLife International.

"Migratory wild birds were blamed for spreading bird flu west from Asia, yet there's been no spread back eastwards, nor to South Asia and Africa this Autumn. The limited outbreaks in eastern Europe are on southerly migration routes but are more likely to be caused by other vectors such as the import of poultry or poultry products. The hypothesis that wild birds are to blame is simply far from proven," said Dr Rands. "Wild birds occasionally come into contact with infected poultry and die: they are the victims not vectors of H5N1 bird flu."

BirdLife maintains that better biosecurity is the key to halting the spread of bird flu.

In particular, BirdLife is urging governments and relevant agencies to concentrate their efforts on the poultry and cage bird trades and to impose the following prevention measures:

* Banning the movement of poultry and poultry products from infected
areas
* Banning the use of untreated poultry faeces as fertiliser and feed in
fish-farms and in agriculture
* Restricting the international movement of captive birds in trade

"Implementing measures like these are proven to work," says Dr Rands. "For example, Malaysia and South Korea both experienced bird flu outbreaks through importing infected poultry products, but stamped the disease out and have remained disease free through improved biosecurity. In the mean time, hundreds of thousands of waterbirds have arrived to winter in, or migrated through South Korea, and many migrant waders have passed through Malaysia."

"Better biosecurity is the key to controlling the disease's spread," said Dr Rands. "But the virus can rapidly mutate, so it's important to monitor wild bird populations to look for evidence of new strains
arising."

Surfbirds News: Autumn waterbird migration ends without spread of H5N1 bird flu

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