7 February 2007 at 3:03 pm #4428
Just sent following to UK flu expert Prof John Oxford’s email address:
Dear Professor Oxford: Seen BBC quoting you as saying wild bird likely carried H5N1 into the sealed shed in Suffolk. Hope you were misquoted; otherwise, seems you have woeful (very outdated?) lack of knowledge re H5N1 and wild birds. I’m birder/conservationist, based in Hong Kong; studied bird migration, and done much on H5N1 and wild birds, inc in 2003/04 when spread in Asia largely ignored in west. No wild bird species known to be able to survive and sustain and spread H5N1 (yes, quite different for natural wild bird flus – but we’re not talking about generic info of yesteryear here). I’m attaching article I wrote on the Tooth Fairy Bird: tongue in cheek, but inc some science. Also a strong paper, which includes evolutionary biology. (In Waterbirds; not attached here.) Hope these are of some interest. – not attaching here; but you can read New to Science – the Tooth Fairy Bird on this forum. Given Dead Ducks Don’t Fly (and dead swans won’t fit thro narrow entrances to BM’s turkey shed), how might H5N1 have travelled from Hungary to UK? As you’ll be aware, crates etc long known to carry bird flu: "In the United States in 1925, "People were shipping poultry to New York live bird markets. Then dirty, contaminated crates were being shipped back." This contributed to the spread of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak."
Puzzling that you should blame wild birds so readily, and without any scientific basis. (Indeed, you are wonderfully vague in blaming "wild birds" – this is woeful for a prominent scientist.) Best regards, Dr Martin Williams
Also sent following to a tv news journalist:
It’s shocking and troubling that it’s new concept to you re H5N1 being spread by roads etc. Hopefully Richard can be huge help here. I’ve done much on H5N1 and wild birds – since around 2003/04, when spread in Asia blamed on migratory birds, but with nary a shred of decent evidence. This before the west seemed to notice the disease exists. Annoyed me that wild birds so readily blamed. yet had no voices of their own to speak out (while four poultry industry, officials not wanting to admit potential troubles, and industry people not liking ideas of trouble at t’farms). Did a map for this, showing timings etc were quite wrong. Crucially: H5N1 kills wild birds (most). Hard to carry a disease around when it kills you! ("Dead ducks don’t fly" I’ve noted – after email I received from a bird flu expert). Compare regular wild bird flus: mild, which not surprising given must be spread by birds that can fly, even migrate v long distances. No wild bird species shown capable of surviving and sustaining and spreading H5N1. Get vaguge blame of "wild birds"; I wrote attached on "Tooth Fairy Bird". Some tongue in cheek, but there’s science there. (I’ve phd in phys chem, but long been birding, inc migration studies in China). Also attaching a strong scientific paper – if you’ve time, could be big help; this posted to aiwatch group by Richard. Again, no use if can’t find wild bird that can sustain and spread h5n1. Grain report too a big help. Also a map someone sent me on Turkey outbreaks last year: cf highway and outbreaks. Declan Butler of Nature did H5N1 maps w Google Earth; inc one showing some apparent correlation w spread west last winter, with Trans-Siberian Railway. (A question: as it spread west, why was it near absent from much of Asia last winter? No wild migratory birds known infected, from Caspian Sea East – I live in Hong Kong; we’ve a major wetland reserve. Not one case of H5N1 at the reserve itself, despite disease being around here for over a decade, and tens of thousands of waterbirds migrating here each year). Poultry industry well knows even dirty crates etc can spread flu. In one case in US, carried on dirty crates for some distance (a few hundred miles). As Grain notes, money involved in industry huge. Try googling, too, re Joseph Domenech, chief vet of FAO, being annoyed by BBC asking questions – his reply along lines that if can’t farm this way, hard to feed people. Farming promoted by FAO includes feeding poultry manure and even bits of dead chickens to fish in fish farms. H5N1 can survive pretty well in water; rather better at surviving in warmer water than typical flus (after some evolution in warmer parts of Asia, where few wild ducks but many fish ponds?) There is link w farm ducks in Thailand, but even these can’t sustain h5n1 for long term it seems I’ve noticed Bob McCracken, a retired vet, has made noises re flu; readily blamed wild birds w zip decent science. Googled him, and strong links to poultry organisations. interesting, too, that H5N1 variants of concern maybe have ancestor in an h5n1 found a few decades ago in UK poultry (in turkeys if I recall rightly) – hmm, maybe in chicken in Scotland in 1959, tho H5N1 in UK again in 1991 – and that time, was in a turkey Bootiful, just bootiful Martin