Just come across woeful article, Unless we act now, bird flu may win, by Laurie Garrett – ‘a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Coming Plague.” ‘ – in International Herald Tribune.

Lays blame for spreading H5N1 firmly on wild birds; yet even though it’s a long article (opinion piece), gives little or no real evidence for this, and has some startling twists of logic. For instance:
“The Lake Qinghai moment was the tipping point in the bird flu pandemic. The virus mutated, evidently becoming more contagious and deadly to a broader range of bird species, some of which continued their northern migration to central Siberia.”
– so, a more deadly virus, somehow leaving wild birds healthy enough to continue migrations. And never mind the timings don’t fit etc etc – yet again, the blame-the-birds scenario somehow doesn’t need details regarding migratory species, routes, timings etc. [heck, those details may prove inconvenient]

earlier says:
“We now understand that influenza is naturally an aquatic migratory bird virus that is carried by ducks, geese and a small list of other waterfowl. Influenza infection is usually harmless to these world travelers, but can kill other types of birds, such as chickens, domestic ducks and swans.”
– well, yes, but this means wild influenza; not H5N1 poultry flu. Had Ms Garrett had brain cells operating when she wrote this piece, she might have noticed that H5N1 is highly lethal to these “world travelers”.

“For at least a decade H5N1 has circulated among a small pool of migrating birds, mostly inside China, and occasionally broken out in other animals and people.”
– merely an assertion, not borne out by scientific evidence.

Asserts re outbreaks spreading to Europe, Nigeria:
” Anybody tracking the birds could have seen it coming.”
– and might that same “anybody” have forecast H5N1 being widespread in migratory waterbirds to east of the Caspian Sea, where instead it’s, err, been absent throughout autumn/winter so far?

” It is in the realm of reasonable probability that H5N1 will reach the United States this summer or early autumn.”
– by migratory birds, travelling via Greenland/Iceland, this is.
And, how about the probability of it being in migratory waterbirds in Hong Kong, say? Alas, Ms Garrett sees no need to concern herself with trivia such as facts that don’t fit her story. Instead, she is even asserting migrants could carry H5N1 along “any, or all, of the four primary north/south flyways that span the Americas, from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego.”

Ms G suggests we should heed warnings of science, and put poultry indoors. Such as, one assumes, the French turkey farmer, who just had indoors flock ravaged by H5N1.

Hilariously, after playing such a role in the witchhunt against wild birds, Garrett then suggests:
“One of the best untapped resources in this epic battle against influenza is bird-watchers, who are among the most fanatic hobbyists in the world. The major bird-watching organizations and safari clubs ought to work with the World Health Organization and OIE, the World Organization for Animal Health, to set up Web-based notification sites, where birders could report sightings of groups of dead birds, and the movements of key migrating species.”
– just shows that she clearly didn’t bother with doing any research for her article. No need I guess, since she has a Pulitzer, and poses nicely on her website (a while ago, I posted re H5N1 and wild birds on her forum; no reply, and clearly of no use at all).

“Ornithologists and climate experts should immediately sit down with pandemic planners and virologists, creating lists of known H5N1 carriers and plotting their most likely global movements. As the birds appear in new regions of the world, birders and professional wildlife surveillance personnel should issue alerts, which should be swiftly confirmed and form the basis of government response.”
– the known wild carriers seem to be pretty much the six ducks with two genotypes from Poyang Lake.
Otherwise, are indeed birds carrying – or that were carrying – H5N1, especially across frozen parts of eastern Europe. But it appears they are dying: killed by starvation, and by a disease created in man’s poultry farms. Premature to say that the virus won’t die away from most places as the birds die (cf Mongolia, say).

Meanwhile, not mentioned by Garrett, trade in poultry and poultry products – including smuggling – continues.
What a truly woeful article. :sick: