post I just made in response to a question on Agonist.org, may be of interest:
In short, yes, I do believe
Wild birds are not spreading bird flu
- not h5n1 variant that we're so concerned about. (But they carry plenty of flus; benign for vast vast majority, till farming gets them and transforms [into frankenflus - yikes!].)
Bit longer: birds were claimed to be vectors during 2003/2004, when there was extensive spread in east and se Asia. But, nowhere did such claims look credible; instead, movements within poultry trade (including illegal, inc fighting cocks) looked way more likely. At Qinghai, I'm sure that birds spread the virus amongst each other at the colonies (eg geese defecating on grass, grazing on it). But whether any that survived will go on to become vectors remains to be seen.
After a time, what will happen to h5n1 in wild birds - will there be some evolution, even recombination, to form that is less harmful to them, and us - even unable to cross species barrier to humans? [they might be fine mixing vessels for flus, with plenty of H's and so on - but these are for great part benign, which is a lot why birders have been little concerned re bird flu till now] I think we should then look south, along the true migration routes from Qinghai; come later autumn and winter, Indian scientists and birders will surely watch for potential vectors, see what happens. (There's already a nice web page with h5n1 info by an Indian birder, indicating interest.) Now, with spread to Russia, I'm not certain birds haven't moved virus over significant distances, but I think here too there is major cause for doubt.
Again, as 2003/04, timings of outbreaks go against migration routes/timings. Instead of figuring there are errors in these, maybe could look for another vector. I think the Chany Lake outbreak just might be from wild birds, but might also be that from poultry farms (run-off entering a shallow wetland, hence to food eaten/water drunk by waterfowl). [Again, timing indicates latter to me.]
For spread between farms, I believe markets etc will be mixing sources. The wild birds dying at lake in Mongolia also a concern; I'm intrigued to hear reports from team inc Wildlife Conservation Society members who were reportedly going to investigate. It's too bad that China is so secretive about bird flu; there, I've seen at least one official claim of wild birds being vectors that apparently had not a shred of evidence. Russia, so far, more open, which is good (how odd to be reading reports from Pravda, on the Internet, in English!). I've just been cc'd an email from WWF Russia, saying,
The Ministry (Agriculture) has no information about bird flu in Kursk region. Additionally, the AI was not confirmed in Kalmykia: the death of domestic birds was caused by other stomach infection.
Maybe of some interest. To me, just reported outbreak in Japan (yet) again is an outbreak fitting trade - which can also involve smuggled birds (as smuggled ducks to Quemoy some time ago, with h5n1).
I've been in touch with/been cc'd emails from various conservation organisations, including Birds Korea, Wetlands International, Wildlife Conservation Society (international and Thailand program), WWF Hong Kong (now WWF Russia), Birdlife International, Birdlife Asia. All have similar views: wild birds can be victims, but not shown to be vectors of h5n1 (even though they - especially waterfowl - are reservoirs of flu viruses, which can become problematic thro evolution in poultry).
Also just in, email trying to check species affected at Qinghai (again, Chinese authorities could be such a help here). Based on names in a macine translated news item [posted here??]; here giving widely known English names in brackets. Some at least already named on this thread; one or two still bit baffling; I'm about to recheck thread in case more names given. Looking at numbers, striking to me just how high the proportion of bar-headed geese is; again, as faecal to oral route simpler I guess. For the gulls, I wonder if at least partly thro scavenging carcasses of dead birds. Cormorants - I don't know, but they certainly defecate a lot when sitting around (after feeding by swimming, diving for fish). spot headed geese 5412 (Bar headed Goose) brown headed gulls 641 cormorants 1151 fishing gulls 1064 (Pallas's Gull) red beaked diving ducks 121 (Red-crested Pochard) red feet ducks 34 (Ruddy Shelduck???) ring neck birds 23 (Common Pheasant???) swallow gulls 12 (Terns) white-headed crane 6 (Hooded Crane - unlikely on range; probably young Black-necked) Phoenix headed bird 11 (Northern Lapwing???) black neck crane 2 (Blac-necked Crane) raincoat feather crane 1 (Demoiselle Crane)