Martin W

Even as the connection between the H5N1 in Hungary and Bernard Matthews’ Suffolk farm became stronger, daft Debbie managed to concoct an extremely silly "investigative" piece in New Scientist. (What’s the matter with the mag? A former editor’s peddling a book on cosmic rays causing global warming.) Here are a few extracts, as Deborah MacKenzie turns bumbling detective to track down the source of the infection – without even leaving the office!

Suspect: East Asia … Verdict: Extremely unlikely to have spread directly from here to the UK

so far, so good ;)

Suspect: Siberia Evidence: Dabbling ducks can carry H5N1 and stay healthy. [now get some guff re them having carried it on to Hungary and Britain: yes, Debbie’s a true Tooth Fairy Bird believer] … Verdict: Likely

Debbie’s being, shall we say, economical with the truth here. A very few examples known of ducks staying "healthy" with H5N1 (not dying, anyway). Many known to die of it, too – note the Hungary virus killed geese. None known to be effective vectors – only circumstantial evidence at best.

Suspect: Hungary … Verdict: Just because one happened after the other, it doesn’t mean the first one caused it.

– there’s waffle from Debbie here, too. But, intriguing to see her dismiss the prime suspect so feebly.

Suspect: Scotland Evidence: Britain’s only previous case of H5N1 was a dead whooper swan in a harbour in Cellardyke, Scotland, in March 2006. Could the virus have persisted in British birds? No other birds with H5N1 have been found in Britain, … Verdict: Likely. The same wild British ducks that infected the Scottish swan may have infected the Bernard Matthews turkeys. A worker could merely have stepped in duck faeces then walked into a barn, say scientists.

Now, this is barking mad. There was no evidence the swan was infected in Britain – quite the contrary, given the swan was the only case found in the wild (and, Debbie, H5N1 does make its presence known when in the wild – get dead birds, and utter fancy to suggest it might persist in ducks that – magically – don’t infect birds that would die of H5N1, including other ducks of the same species). Instead, was even possible this bird was among those fleeing the cold snap in eastern Europe, and died over the sea. A sad fate, esp as maybe died of disease that evolved in poultry farms. Notice the "scientists" at the end: no proper attribution. You might expect such an article on a bonkers blog, but in New Scientist? Oh dear. If you like twaddle, you can read the article at: UK bird flu outbreak – who dunnit? Perhaps also take a look at New Sci publisher Reed International’s page on its publication

Poultry World – which notes that

today it focuses on large scale production and processing of poultry and eggs

other publications include Farmer’s Weekly. Hmmm…