Don't blame wild birds for H5N1 spread: expert

Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:29pm GMT BANGKOK (Reuters) -

There is no solid evidence that wild birds are to blame for the apparent spread of the H5N1 virus from Asia to parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, an animal disease expert said on Wednesday.

There was also no proof that wild birds were a reservoir for the H5N1 virus, Scott Newman, international wildlife coordinator for avian influenza at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, said at a bird flu conference in Bangkok.

After H5N1 was found in 2005 in a huge lake in central China where it killed over 10,000 wild birds, it turned up in parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, leading some experts to believe migratory birds may be to blame.

But Newman said there was no good reason for thinking so.

"We know that some wild birds have probably moved short distances carrying viruses and then they died, but we have not been able to identify carriage of H5N1 across large scale spatial distances and then resulting in spread to other birds and mortality in poultry flocks," Newman told Reuters.

He said fecal tests on some 350,000 healthy birds worldwide had to date only yielded "a few" positive H5N1 results.

Furthermore, in instances and places where wild birds were found with the disease, there were no concurrent outbreaks of the virus in poultry.

"So we don't have at this point in time a wildlife reservoir for H5N1 ... so they can't be a main spreader of the disease," Newman said.

He stressed the need to focus attention on the poultry trade, and particularly smuggling, adding that these factors may instead be spreading and sustaining the deadly disease.

"We recognize that poultry production, trade, both legal and illegal, and other bio-security issues are probably more important as far as being a mechanism that promotes the sustaining and spread of H5N1," he said.

Experts have warned for years that a flu pandemic was long overdue and they stressed at the three-day Bangkok conference that the H5N1 bird flu virus remained a key candidate.

The virus has killed millions of chickens and ducks and despite the slaughter of millions more and vaccination campaigns, it remains entrenched in many poultry populations.

Although the virus has infected only 351 people around the world since 2003, it has killed 219 of them, according to the World Health Organization.

(Editing by Darren Schuettler)

source: Reuters
BirdLife Review of 2007

BirdLife International published a review of 2007 online. Click the links below.

Part 1: Climate change

Part 2: Preventing extinctions

Part 3: Rediscoveries and reintroductions

Part 4: Fights for sites
Mongolian ringed Bar-headed Goose in India
Mongolian ringed Whooper Swans in China

Dear readers of Birding Mongolia, dear friends,

I wish all of you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2008, including many fantastic observations!

Just at the begin of the new year we received some exciting news of wildfowl ringed in Mongolia. Read below and follow the links for photos.

Many greetings from Bangkok,

Axel
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From the mailinglist Oriental Birding:

Dear all, A very Happy New Year to you all.


This year has started on a positive note for understanding more about bird migration routes in Asia. A Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus caught and marked with a neck collar in Mongolia was photographed by M. Niranjan in Somnathpur, Karnataka, India (Latitude: 12 deg 16' 0 N, Longitude: 76 deg 52' 60 E) and a photo is uploaded here.

This the probably the first evidence of migration of the Bar-headed Goose from Mongolia to India, previous ringing and satellite telemetry work demonstrated migration between disconnected breeding populations in Qinghai Lake in northwest China and southern Tibetan as well as in Kyrgyzstan. There is information on migration of ducks and Greylag Goose Anser anser between India and Mongolia. The Bar-headed Goose was marked by a team lead by Martin Gilbert of the Wildlife Conservation Society and he writes:

Judging from the photo, the bird is a male tagged with the collar E6. He was caught on 19 July 2007 in the Darkhad Valley in the northern Mongolian aimag of Hovsgol (N: 99.41078, E: 51.19736). He was one of 50 Bar-headed Geese we fitted with collars in July, and is the first for which we have received resighting information. Based on the information given, the bird has travelled a direct line distance of ~4,780 km! I am attaching a couple of images that might be of interest to the photographer including one of the bird himself at capture, a map indicating the area of capture, and direct line track between the two. [The image has been uploaded on
http://www.indianaturewatch.net/displayimage.php?id=34412] I'd be grateful if you could pass them onto him and am also including a GAINS fact sheet for general information. Congratulations to the photographer and WCS for this information. More information has been uploaded on a website Birds, birdwatching and conservation in Mongolia — by Axel Braunlich http://birdsmongolia.blogspot.com/2007/08/alert-colour-marking-of-swans-and-geese.html

Best wishes,

Taej Taej Mundkur, PhD
Deputy Wildlife Coordinator for Avian Influenza Infectious Disease Group / EMPRES Animal Health Service, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, ITALY 00100. email: taej.mundkur at fao.org

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Dear Taej and friends,


18 of the Mongolian banded Whooper Swans were recorded in China: Five birds at the Yellow River Delta of Shandong Province, and 13 birds at Sanmenxia Reservoir in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, Henan Province. Here and here are the photos of the banded swans, all taken by birdwatchers in China.

It is encouraging to see more and more Chinese citizens take part in birdwatching and care about bird conservation.

Best wishes,

Simba Chan
Senior Conservation Officer
BirdLife International, Asia Division