A critical phase in the evolution of a bird flu pandemic could play out in China in the coming weeks, world bird flu expert Robert Webster said in Dunedin yesterday. … He said a campaign in China to vaccinate its 14 billion poultry flock could precipitate a worst case scenario. The doomsday scenario was that the Chinese would use a poor-quality vaccine that did nothing more than force the virus to mutate into something more lethal. "The international community has no way of knowing whether China will use a good one," Professor Webster said. "There is a big argument that they will simply help the virus to evolve to become a human pathogen."

he also mentions h5n1 in flamingos in Kuwait, without noting that in one bird, and that may have been a captive bird. Nor with any apparent thought about how a flamingo could have been infected by H5N1 (if not in trade). Nor that migration is essentially over for this autumn – this isnn’t a step towards Africa as he suggests; nor that no wild waterbirds in Asia ex-Russia known to have the virus this autumn. Seems to me that Webster has made grand contributions to flu, but he’s currently a bit of a doomsayer, and quick to blame wild birds for spread with nary a shred of evidence. Though I don’t suppose that harms potential for obtaining research grants.

Bird flu expert says virus entering critical phase