The article’s paragraph re migratory birds and flu is altogether curious:

Avian influenza comes from aquatic birds, including migratory ducks, geese and herons. As Garrett explains, the loss of these birds’ migratory routes in China has brought them into direct contact with humans in farms and parks. In this way, influenza is spread from migrating birds to domestic birds, then to pigs and ultimately to humans.

Birds haven’t lost their migratory routes; humans have moved into migration routes – and done so worldwide.
Farms and parks are, in evolutionary terms, new habitats, which many bird species live in (some becoming farmland specialists, say).
As Garrett will know if she’s visited China, it’s darn hard finding birds in much Chinese farmland – agriculture is so intensive that there’s near zero slightly wild land left [not even hedgerows, rough grass patches etc as still fairly common in, say, UK]).
Further, city parks are usually very quiet – and not places for many waterbirds (Beijing Summer Palace, if you can call it a park, is one of few exceptions I can think of – good for ducks).

Worldwide, humans have long been in direct contact with birds – hunting them, and with some like chickens and ducks farmed.

Since 97, notions that need transmission via pigs to humans has been shown to be false: this h5n1 variant can transmit directly from poultry to humans (which is mentioned in the interview).

This paragraph is part of the preamble for the interview – so I wonder if it was the interview writer, not Garrett, erring here. (Though it starts by saying, “As Garrett explains…)

In the interview, Garrett does say:

Even now there’s not a real smooth operating relationship between the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. So those agencies in the UN system that deal with animals and agriculture are not as neatly plugged onto the World Health Organization, and vice versa, as one would hope. And the same is true here in the U.S. institutionally. Our U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services are not exactly good bedfellows.

Agencies that traditionally deal with agriculture tend to have as their mission statement the defense of the agricultural industry. So they’re very tied into the economic side of agriculture, whereas health agencies tend to view that with suspicion, and to be tied into a whole different kind of economy. So it creates a kind of natural tension between these forces, and it filters all the way down to the average doctor, the average veterinarian, the average wildlife scientist or ecologist. So the bridges haven’t been built at the institutional level or at the personal level.

– defence of agricultural industry; indeed, and it’s this that I think is helping cause bias towards blaming wild birds, not the real villain of the piece, farming.

Post edited by: martin, at: 2005/08/13 05:48