News recently in of dead peregrine with H5N1; also found in urban area – Tsuen Wan, by northwest Kowloon. (Was it captive, I wonder.)

Just asked to comment on article in S China Morning Post today, which began:

Mai Po Nature Reserve in the northwestern New Territories provides a “natural” early warning system for bird flu in Hong Kong, according to a visiting bird flu expert.

Dirk Pfeiffer, professor of veterinary epidemiology at the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College, said the number of dead birds with H5N1 found this month was insignificant compared with the number of carcasses collected for testing and should not cause alarm.

Up to yesterday, only seven out of 1,600 birds collected had been found with H5N1 flu. This compared with January last year when 470 dead birds were collected, four of which tested positive.

For the whole of last year, 17 out of 10,000 birds collected had H5N1.

Although any “trigger point” marking the explosion of bird flu would be difficult to anticipate, Dr Pfeiffer said “to be quite frank, you would see an excess mortality in Mai Po before that actually occurs”. “Before you see large percentages in resident wild birds you would actually see something in Mai Po,” he said.

“You actually have a nice warning system there.”

Even if wild birds at Mai Po became infected, it would be “a long way” before this would spread from poultry to humans, and then among humans.

it concluded:

Meanwhile, television and radio announcements will be broadcast from next week advising people not to release birds into the wild, whether for Buddhist merit-making ceremonies or any other cultural or religious reason.

“We have talked to Buddhist and Taoist associations and they agreed not to release birds,” said Thomas Sit Hon-chung, assistant director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

He said it would be useless to ban the practice because Hong Kong was a big area.

I’ve replied:

I saw that remark re Mai Po, and was rather surprised.

Seemed to me that made by an “expert” who had parachuted in, and had little knowledge re wild birds and H5N1.

Not sure why he didn’t stress that, despite extensive testing, not one bird from Mai Po has yet proven H5N1 positive.
This is strong evidence that waterbirds – the main reservoir for natural bird flus – do not sustain and spread H5N1 (chiefly as “dead ducks don’t fly”; HK yet to find H5N1 in an apparently healthy wild bird of any kind).
He might also have noted that the species and pattern involved in H5N1 in dead wild birds in HK this year does not fit what you’d expect were migratory – or even resident – wild birds the source. Four songbirds, plus two birds of prey and a crow – all species that are resident in Hong Kong; the songbirds all commonly released in rituals, the birds of prey mainly bird eaters (and I haven’t seen whether were signs either or both may have been captive birds that were dumped, as evidently case with one or two peregrines that tested positive here in the past), the crow a general feeder including scavenger.

So, Mai Po would be early warning system were H5N1 actually spread by wild birds.
But as this isn’t the case, it’s the wrong place to look. Worldwide, too much attention has been diverted to looking at wild birds, rather than better scrutinising poultry trade, legal and – very importantly – illegal.
Spread isn’t from wild birds to poultry and on to humans.
It’s from poultry to poultry, poultry to wild birds, poultry to humans, poultry to cats, poultry to even tigers (Thai zoo).

(Do I think there’s conspiracy here? Something like it, I’m afraid, yes.
Officials don’t want to admit failings. FAO’s chief vet Joseph Domenech has said something along lines of there being threats to food security if poultry industry is chiefly to blame. FAO had promoted fish farming with chicken manure used as feed: seems a potential reservoir for H5N1, as I saw in Indonesia:
I’ve read of China likewise using poultry manure as fish feed; even dead chickens can be used – as in my photos. HK doesn’t do this, I’m told by Lew Young, manager of Mai Po.
Poultry industry is massive – farms can have many thousands of birds. Much money involved. Attached of interest here, perhaps, albeit lengthy. [A report by GRAIN, on industrial poultry farming connection to H5N1])

Govt’s APIs regarding Buddhist releases are, in this regard, late in being introduced. Even H5N1 in wild birds records early last year indicated wild bird trade/releases was key culprit (most records were urban; yet vast majority of our wild birds are in rural areas, with key concentrations at Mai Po and elsewhere in Deep Bay).
Perhaps, then, after readily blaming wild birds – from Kowloon Park and Penfold Park outbreaks some years ago, onwards – govt here is seeing a little sense.

Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/31 13:47