Dead Swans w H5N1 in west Asia and Europe

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      Hello together There seems to be another die off of Swans in Astrakhan and the neighboured kalmykian Republik. (The region is situated in the south west of Russia[

      Area – 44.1 thousand square km, that is 0.3% of all territory of the Russian Federation. Length from west to east – 120 km, from north to south – 375 km. Climate is continental, dry. About 70% of the region`s territory is in zone of deserts. Relief is plain. It remains unclear how far domestic poultry is involved. Has anybody further details? thanks

      Martin W

        Swans again.
        Why so many swans affected in eastern Europe and Russia recently?

        I’ve seen nothing more re this outbreak; as yet, haven’t seen good ideas re why swans becoming infected.

        Martin W

          Message I’ve sent to group re h5n1 and conservation:

          Swan infections indeed extraordinary.
          Are these all mute swans, from Caspian Sea westward?

          Though had whooper swan die in Mongolia last summer, no other wild swan deaths that I’ve noticed in east Asia.
          Bewick’s swans winter at Poyang, say, in some numbers (sorry, don’t have figures; quick google reveals a bird tour counting over a thousand).
          Were some bird deaths at Poyang around time Guan Yi et al obtained samples including from six ducks with H5N1 – but if lots of swan deaths, it has been kept quiet. If few or no swans died there, when sharing shallow lagoons [as reserve appeared to me my one visit – the huge lake shrinks in winter, only part is reserve] with infected ducks, surely more puzzling.
          As I recall, black and black-necked swans have died of H5N1, in captivity in Hong Kong and neighbouring Shenzhen.

          Qinghai indicates geese (well, bar-headed, tho again have been deaths in captivity) highly susceptible. Also graze in fields [as swans may do]

          info from ornithologist Chris Feare:

          Swans do indeed seem to be highly vulnerable and I cannot say why. They do
          graze arable crops and grass, and they can forage on the bottom of water
          bodies deeper than accessed by dabbling ducks. There may also be some
          unknown physiological suscepribility – all speculation at this stage. Mute
          swans forced to move by cold weather may be more susceptible to AI due to
          stress/starvation. But cold weather might also force them to exploit unusual
          food sources, possibly bringing them closer to infected material of some

          We must, however, be clear about movements. The swans involved now are most
          likely dispersing away from areas that are apparently experiencing extreme
          cold in eastern Europe and western Asia. Mute Swans cannot feed on frozen
          water bodies and so must move in search of open water. These birds have not
          just arrived from Russia, but will have spent some weeks in areas that we
          now know have infections in poultry. Furthermore, they are definitely not on
          migration to Africa. Migrant mute swans occasionally reach Egypt and
          possibly Algeria, but uncommon (Birds of Africa). Egypt does have some feral
          mute swans, as does the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Whooper and Bewicks
          swans both rarely visit N Africa. The current events, assuming they are
          moving away from ice, do suggest that infected birds can travel a some
          hundreds of km before dying, or that the infection is present over a wider
          area than we thought and they pick it up on arrival at the new venue. The
          implications of this are worrying.

          Martin W

            A dead Red-breasted Goose found on Skiros Island, Greece, has tested positive for H5N1. Another, found nearby, being tested. This is a beautiful goose species, regarded as globally Vulnerable to extinction

            Martin W

              First wild bird cases of avian influenza in European Union
              BirdLife news release

              Three swans and a wild goose in Greece, up to 22 dead swans in southern
              Italy and Sicily, and a swan in Slovenia have died of avian influenza.
              Five of the Italian birds have tested positive for the deadly strain of
              the H5N1 virus that originated in poultry and has been circulating
              widely within Asia for the last decade. Bulgaria is expected to announce
              its first cases of the virus soon in infected geese.

              This is another worrying development in the spread of avian influenza
              following the virus’s appearance, last week, in Nigeria. Unlike the
              African outbreak, however, which is restricted to poultry and was linked
              by the government to the illegal import of infected chickens, the
              European outbreaks involve wild birds.

              All the swans are believed to be Mute Swans Cygnus olor, a species that
              visits southern Italy and Greece from the Black Sea region. Their
              movement into southern Europe is likely to be in response to freezing
              weather conditions around the Black Sea.

              In outbreaks of H5N1 so far, wild birds normally die within a few days
              of infection. The appearance of the swans in Italy, Slovenia and Greece
              indicates they were likely infected just prior to setting off on their

              It is possible the swans caught the disease from other wild birds,
              although this is unlikely given the tens of thousands of waterfowl that
              have tested negative for H5N1 over the last decade. A more likely route
              is through contact with infected poultry or their faeces. Mute Swans,
              like wild geese but unlike most ducks, often feed by grazing on
              agricultural fields.
              The practice of spreading poultry manure onto
              fields as fertiliser is widespread in many parts of Eastern Europe, and
              this is a possible source of infection. The United Nations Food and
              Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned “Viruses can stay alive in the
              manure for many weeks. If the manure is spread too quickly in the
              fields, the virus may contaminate poultry.” The swan deaths highlight
              the need for implementation of strict biosecurity measures in infected
              areas, and also highlight the need for monitoring of healthy wild birds
              for the presence of the virus.

              Swans seem particularly susceptible to H5N1 avian influenza, and Mute
              Swan deaths have previously been reported in Russia and in October 2005
              in Croatia. Tests on the Croatian swans found the birds excreted tiny
              amounts of the virus. Even so, it was remarkable that waterbirds sharing
              the same fish ponds as infected swans remained free of the disease.

              The finding of dead swans will fuel the debate over how H5N1 is
              spreading. However, if wild birds had been spreading the disease across
              continents there would have been trails of dead birds following
              migration routes, which isn’t the case.

              The “wild bird” theory for the
              spread of H5N1 provides no explanation as to why certain countries on
              flight paths of birds from Asia remain flu-free, whilst their neighbours
              suffer repeated infections, nor of why only a single strain of H5N1 is
              found in outbreaks west of China.


                It seems to me that dead swans are now our harbinger of H5N1 transport.

                They have been found in: Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, and Austria. Probably in more countries also. These I just listed are the countries affected in just the last two weeks that I can recall without doing more research.

                How is it that swans can get around with the H5 virus? Do they possibly have a more robust immune system that lets them range afar before succumbing to the disease?

                Or, is it a possibility that they are picking up the virus from an asymptomatic vector after arrival at their destination of demise?

                Martin W

                  A puzzle.

                  I don’t believe there was already H5N1 in all the places dead swans with H5N1 found (seems there have been movements spurred by freezing weather).

                  Yet, puzzling re just how and where they are being/have been infected.
                  (Earlier, had swans arrive Hungary in autumn, evidently healthy; move to Romania, and infected and dying – but H5N1 not found on ponds where they were dying.)

                  Are swans in east Asia, too; not many mute swans tho (the species impacted w Asia/Europe I believe). Not south to HK, but are in Japan westwards.
                  Yet, no problems evident w swans here, not even back to 2003/04.
                  Get various birds die from H5N1 – herons, egrets, gulls etc etc (even if you consider ducks somehow immune [by no means certain], or so few die that won’t be evident).
                  Why, then, (mute) swans in Europe/w Asia?


                    Was reading something about swans grazing on stubble fields. Possibly stubble fields serve as dump for poultry waste with intent of fertilizing for next years crop.

                    Do you think swans pass through regions caontaminated by such?

                    Martin W

                      It’s a guess, but only that.
                      Geese also feed in stubble fields, yet few geese.
                      (worrying re red-breasted geese – a globally threatened species – just now; hoping there isn’t major outbreak among them)

                      Martin W

                        Just seen reports re panicked people not feeding mute swans in Austria, Poland

                        Prompted me to send this missive around:

                        Wonder if people stopping feeding swans will have helped prompt them to move – especially in freezing weather – and with mute swans mainly sedentary in Europe (?), perhaps they were pretty clueless about where to go, so dispersed widely towards west and south. [While the affected whooper and Bewick’s swans are in more regular places.]
                        Doesn’t explain how and where they got infected.

                        In east Asia – China at least – swans not normally fed; indeed, can become food for people. Whether this is of some importance in swans in east Asia not being affected to marked extent (only 1 wild swan death reported?), hard to say.

                        Seen notions from Germany that the virus may have been present for months, only causing effects when temps very low. I’m sceptical about this.
                        In Hong Kong/Shenzhen – which get chilly but not below freezing – ornamental black and black-necked swans have died of H5N1. Yes, maybe these are more readily cold stressed than European swans (?), but died during outbreaks not cold spells.

                        Virus has now arrived in various places in Europe, in swans.
                        But, now to see whether it stays there – or will it die with the swans? (Romanian research important here I think: waterbirds sharing ponds with infected swans weren’t infected; swans excreting only low amounts of virus. Hope more research like this is being done.)

                        Here in Hong Kong, no reports of H5N1 infected birds since the small flurry around Chinese New Year.
                        And, at apparent epicentre of H5N1 of Guangdong goose 96 lineage, no reports or sign of H5N1 in migratory waterbirds this autumn/winter. (All those who believe wild birds readily carry H5N1 – explain this please.)


                          A few comments on the Mute Swan questions:

                          -there’s a large wintering population of Mutes in NE Greece (e.g. up to several thousand on Evros delta) so to that extent they are not sedentary in SE Europe

                          -not sure where those birds come from, but presumably Ukraine, Danube delta etc. and around northern Black Sea

                          -they don’t have a regular dispersal from NE Greece, but in v cold snaps seem to head SW into Balkans and beyond, e.g. southern Italy where there have been previous cold weather influxes (remember the three that got as far as Malta then were shot a few years ago)

                          -a potentially significant difference to my mind between Whoopers and Mutes is that the Mutes tend to roost and feed in same place, up-end in deep water, whereas Whoopers in SE Europe and ?elsewhere tend roost on water, flight out to feed on cereal fields (for example, I’ve seen small numbers of Whoopers roosting with Mutes on Evros and then flighting inland at dawn whilst the Mutes stay put)

                          -similarly, the geese in Bulgaria tend to feed on autumn-drilled cereal where they can (i.e. with any spread manure etc. ploughed in some months before they arrive)

                          As a separate point, die-off of 135 “wild swans” reported on Iranian Caspian shore this week in the FT.

                          Martin W

                            Just seen on birdforum – link to tv news video from German island with dying swans (on footage):

                            very sad

                            forum message says: "This is only hundreds of metres away from the Federal Animal Disease Research laboratory." (as another post mentions, how about chances of that?)


                              I’ve seen previously posted information about (mis)use of locally generated polutry manure at fishfarms, but quite an interesting post on UKBN today from Serbia, referring to extensive imports from China of poultry-based fertilizer to be used in fishponds. Exact constituents and usage not clear from post, but I assume this means fertilizer to be dumped into water to promote growth of weed/algae.

                              Martin W

                                Thanks Ed, just done some googling, and some interesting info to add to the thread on h5n1 in chicken n duck manure inc in fishponds?

                                Martin W

                                  The Grain report on global poultry industry and H5N1 looks excellent to me. (see thread here re farming and H5N1)

                                  Includes mention re contaminated feed being thought to be a source of H5N1.
                                  “The global trade in poultry feed, another factor in this whole mess, is dominated by the same companies. One of the standard ingredients in industrial chicken feed, and most industrial animal feed, is “poultry litter”. This is a euphemism for whatever is found on the floor of the factory farms: fecal matter, feathers, bedding, etc.[43] Chicken meat, under the label “animal by-product meal”, also goes into industrial chicken feed.[44] The WHO says that bird flu can survive in bird faeces for up to 35 days and, in a recent update to its bird flu fact sheet, it mentions feed as a possible medium for the spread of bird flu between farms.[45] Russian authorities pointed to feed as one of the main suspected sources of an H5N1 outbreak at a large-scale factory farm in Kurgan province, where 460,000 birds were killed.

                                  So, got me wondering: is it possible that in areas where swans evidently dispersed from, they could have eaten contaminated feed?
                                  Not sure if maybe poultry feed dumped as suspect (what happened to rest of the feed in Kurgan province, after problems surfaced, say?); or are there refuges where birds are fed in winter, as in some UK reserves?

                                  Might help explain preponderance of mute swans, if directly fed (for some infections at least).

                                  Martin W

                                    Der Spiegel article:

                                    “Researchers doubt the migratory bird thesis”
                                    [“machine translation”]

                                    How the bird flu came to Germany, is further completely unclear.
                                    While politicians and veterinarians before the beginning of the bird
                                    course warn, experts refer to the gaps of the realizations: It seems,
                                    as if could not have been wild geese, swans and ducks it alone.

                                    The map of the world became a patch carpet. From China and Viet Nam
                                    broad itself red fields out: Those countries, in which the bird flu
                                    virus H5N1 breaks out. Countries seem almost daily to be added,
                                    recently ever more European. And also when regarding the Germany map
                                    the patch carpet association forces itself upon. It met ruegen as the
                                    first, in the midst of H5N1-freier of neighboring countries. The
                                    brandenburgischen districts concerned do not border evenly on the
                                    island. East Holstein lies 150 kilometers further west. In order to
                                    arrive at the Bodensee beach of Ueberlingen or the Mannheimer Rhine
                                    bank, must the exciter the entire Federal Republic have diagonally
                                    crossed. Has? Would have? Only how? Flown?

                                    “it is missed to make migratory birds responsible for the bird flu”,
                                    said the Executive Secretary of the UN convention about moving animal
                                    species (CMS), Robert Hepworth. For the spreading of the virus by
                                    migratory birds give it no scientific vouchers.

                                    Migratory birds under general suspicion

                                    Ministers and veterinarians warn unisono of the beginning of the bird
                                    course in approaching spring. Migratory birds are firstbest
                                    suspecting. “if game birds the main carriers would be, for example
                                    between China and Nigeria, then one would nevertheless expect, says
                                    outbreaks on the distance between them also” Lenten. The dangerous
                                    virus spread from the east to the west, the relevant bird course
                                    routes run in north south direction. In the case ruegen it is added
                                    that many swans concerned were at all no classical migratory birds,
                                    but at best so-called Kaeltefluechter.

                                    “I think nothing at all from this theory”, say the micro biologist
                                    Alexander Kekule of the University of resound Wittenberg. Because
                                    after everything which one knows, works the virus in swans very fast
                                    and very strongly. “Kekule fall in few days dead over”, stress.
                                    “one-way street thinking” calls the ornithologist Klaus Dieter fig
                                    the thesis that game birds brought the virus in made of Eastern
                                    Europe, where their breeding districts with those overlap themselves
                                    to Asia of pulling birds. Cowardly one is a national boss of the
                                    Ornithologi working group Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

                                    Thomas Mettenleiter, boss of the Friedrich Loeffler institute speaks
                                    only of the fact that “puzzlesteine” point on it who can itself have
                                    moved exciters “stafettenartig” in the federal territory. In Lettland
                                    of beringter Singschwan is considered as a main suspect: It was one
                                    of the first animals, with which on ruegen H5N1 one determined.
                                    During its takeoff it is to have been still healthy. “it was beringt
                                    in Lettland, but we do not know, where it was infected, says” UN game
                                    bird advocate Lenten. Officially the Osteekueste of Russia is
                                    considered until to Usedom as H5N1-frei. Also cases of suspicion were
                                    so far not announced.

                                    Fear forwards and aggression against game birds

                                    But how otherwise the exciter – in living birds, their meat or their
                                    excrement – could have come to Central Europe? Bert Lenten enumerates
                                    possibilities: Trade, smuggling, illegal Einfurh of living person or
                                    totem poultry. “in Eastern Europe even the muck from chicken houses
                                    is taken as fodder for fischteiche”, said it. “we have the case of a
                                    swan, that with its Beringung in Hungary were core healthy and two
                                    days later dead in Croatia were gathered.” Who only concentrates on
                                    migratory birds as a carrier of H5N1, ignore other infection ways –
                                    that is dangerous.

                                    In January the Politpopulist Vladimir Schirinowski in the Russian
                                    parliament had demanded to shoot all migratory birds with the return
                                    from their Turkish winter districts. “the government must put a latch
                                    plate for the bird course forward”, demanded it. In Turkey in January
                                    four children had died after a H5N1-Infektion. “the birds are to
                                    remain, where they are”, said the politician.

                                    Martin W

                                      After I sent email to conservationists interested in H5N1, suggesting the virus apparently now scarcer in wild birds in Europe, as if self-limiting there too, seen this reply from an ornithologist working on H5N1:

                                      My view of European (and Middle East and now Kazakhstan) outbreaks in wild birds is
                                      (a) the spread did not follow a migration route,
                                      (b) it did not occur at migration time,
                                      (c) the ring recovery on Ruegen island indicated that the whooper swan contracted the virus on Ruegen: this indicates that the virus had been brought there, most likely (in the absecne of poultry infections) through leap-frog infections of birds that died after passing the infection to others,
                                      (d) the movement of birds seems to have been stimulated by adverse weather, driving birds out of the Black Sea area where widespread and persistent infections in poultry had been present all winter.
                                      This argument suggests that the virus remains lethal, and that infected
                                      birds can’t carry it vary far.

                                      Martin W

                                        a response to above email, from Nial Moores of Birds Korea:

                                        Read your mail below with interest, especially the part,

                                        this indicates that the virus had been brought there, most likely (in the absecne of poultry infections) through leap-frog infections of birds that died after passing the infection to others

                                        Writing as a non-expert in disease, but as one who is really trying to understand the nature of H5N1, I would genuinely appreciate further advice and insight.

                                        From what I understand, based on what we can be pieced together in East Asia, there has been no evidence at all for leap-frog infections between wild birds in this region.

                                        Wild birds have come into contact with the virus: if they were infected, they died (in >99 % of known cases; and even in the v. significantly less than 1% remainder, we perhaps dont know whether death would have followed over time). In many cases (Qinghai, Mongolian lakes, Hong Kong), even birds sharing the same wetland with infected individuals did not become infected.

                                        In the absence of an alternative hypothesis, is it not reasonable to assume that high path H5N1 (in East Asia at least) is very virulent, but that it is actually quite poor in terms of transmissibility? Is this not why it requires the dense concentrations of other birds in artificially maintained conditions to stay virulent and to transmit easily?

                                        There have been, in over 9 years, no obvious or proven leap-frog infections between wild birds in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and China, as far as can be made out.

                                        Instead, it appeears wild birds were infected by more or less direct contact with infected poultry, poultry products/environmental contamination, caged birds, and in a few cases, where surely no other reasonable hypothesis exits, by scavenging on waste/dead birds (e.g. Magpie in Korea, Large-billed Crows in Japan). In all cases, the vast majority of wild birds remained uninfected. Consider those Magpies and Large-billed Crows (species that very often form large roosts in Korea and Japan): no large roosts were affected, and concentrated testing of these species in those countries showed no evidence of H5N1 in any but the birds that died.

                                        If there had been wild bird to wild bird transmission, it would seem very likely that we would have seen ripples of spread, simultaneous outbreaks, sudden die-offs in wild bird flocks, LOTS more birds testing H5N1 positive in these countries. We have not. Instead, we have seen wild birds infected, and local deaths over a rather short time-frame (in all cases until Mongolia fairly easily explained by the local influence of poultry and poultry products or of market birds; and even in that case a gap of only a few hundred km from the infected poultry of southern Siberia, within the flight range of one or more likely several sick infected duck it seems, this in itself relevant to the European cases perhaps?).

                                        What we have been seeing in Europe does seem to be different, at least on the surface. No mass die offs (in western europe at least), but instead scattered cases of deaths in a few species, from Tufted Ducks, especially Mute Swans over several weeks to e.g. a presumably scavenging Buzzard.

                                        Looking closer, though it starts to look less different – East Asia minus the big die-offs…a few birds here, there, and in the absence of the local reservoir of the disease, or of more birds coming from an infected area, the so-called outbreaks seem to trail off.

                                        There are several things that strike me as potentially significant in the Euopean pattern so far..would others agree? (asked without irony and in the hope of hearing peoples thoughts):

                                        1) We know that infections in poultry have become endemic/near-endemic in parts of Turkey and elsewhere in SE/E Europe/W. Asia, and that the virus has become widespread in poultry in parts of Russia (pres all linked by a transport system);
                                        2) We know that there has been a repeated state of denial about such outbreaks, and that trade through the region and from the region is very complex;
                                        3) We know/suspect that there have been/were repeated outbreaks in wild birds in some of the same areas (ie parts of SE/E Europe/W. Asia), some outbreaks claimed to be large, then denied etc;
                                        4) We know that there has been very severe and prolonged cold weather to the east of western europe, affecting some of the same regions;
                                        5) we can see that the majority of infected wild birds are/were being found towards the east of Europe – Sweden, Germany, Italy etc, with none so far (is this correct) in the far west (i.e. UK, Spain , Portugal): ie in areas closest geographically to regions where the disease is already in poultry;
                                        6) We know that bird movements and migration is far more complex than most people are presenting, with lots of smaller movements taking place and species-specific routes within flyways, which themselves are very wide at points (narrower at others). These more local movements include some species of geese and swans in mid-winter, with birds move west to eg the Netherlands, and then on to the UK only when conditions demand it, with in some winters birds even proven to commute between the two, responding to food availability and their fitness;
                                        7) We can suspect that while some species were moving west from frozen wetlands into western Europe until very recently, that now some other species are moving north (I can see on UK birding websites news of the first Barn Swallows and Wheatears arriving, late but now in), as temperatures start to rise.
                                        8) After a week or two of dead wild bird discoveries and new countries infected in western europe, it seems, for now, like the pace has changed – and infections are now being found again more often closer to the regional reservoir (eg outbreaks in Israel, human death in Egypt, continuing a fairly consistent spread closer to the epicentre)?
                                        9) We can now see, for now at least, that the dead wild birds in (northern) parts of Europe were the last link in the chain of infection. They failed to infect other wild birds leap-frog style, unless perhaps through other species scavenging on them also becoming infected (again suggesting high virulence, poor rates of transmission?)
                                        10) Finally, we do not know, but we can suspect, that there are now several potential sources of infection either within or just outside western Europe which can complicate the pattern further.

                                        For the virus to leap frog between wild bird species, as a way of explaining scattered dead wild birds in Europe, would this not mean that the virus would need to have acquired a new level of transmissibility (so that it retains its high path state after repeated transmission in wild birds)?

                                        If this is so, and in the absence of such a pattern In Asia, would not something likely have needed to change in the virus itself within recent weeks (this is asked without irony – I would very much like to understand)? Is there evidence of this?

                                        And if so, if the virus has changed in this way, why are people in western Europe only apparently still only seeing the end link in that chain? Why, when these Mute Swans and Tufted Ducks reach western Europe and die, are there not continuing rippling patterns of spread on neighboring ponds and waterways?

                                        In the hope of enlightenment,


                                        Nial Moores
                                        Birds Korea

                                        Martin W

                                          Sent info from France, re the two largest wetlands in France evidently free of H5N1.
                                          altavista babelfish translation of first article:

                                          The two inspection networks of the birds of the regional park of the Camargue, the National office of hunting and wild fauna and the Tower of Valat, were shown reassured Monday as for the risk to discover an aviary case of influenza on their territory, one learned to the director from the park. According to Didier Olivery, on 1.500 birds analyzed to date, 5% presented cases of influenza but none was carrying virus H5N1.

                                          “It is rather reassuring”, declared Mr. Olivery, at the end of a meeting of the two networks which regularly take stock on the situation in the Camargue. “the Camargue was identified as the site more at the risk of France because a million migratory birds forward there, but one notes the opposite”, declared Mr. Olivery.

                                          The director of the park explains this report by two factors: “There is no site of intensive poultry breeding on the 100.000 hectares of the park, which in addition counts a very low density of population”. A new peak of migration from Africa is waited until mid-April, “but not ducks”, one of the principal reserves of virus H5N1, specified Mr. Olivery, adding that the park continued to reinforce its inspection network.”

                                          The 2 articles:

                                          Grippe aviaire – Les réseaux de surveillance du parc de Camargue “rassurés” TERRE NET
                                          (south of france, near Marseille)

                                          ( Publié le 21/03/2006 à : 09H 15 min )

                                          Les deux réseaux de surveillance des oiseaux du parc régional de Camargue, l’Office national de la chasse et de la faune sauvage et la Tour du Valat, se sont montré rassurés lundi quant au risque de découvrir un cas de grippe aviaire sur leur territoire, a-t-on appris auprès du directeur du parc.

                                          Selon Didier Olivery, sur 1.500 oiseaux analysés à ce jour, 5% présentaient des cas de grippe mais aucun n’était porteur du virus H5N1. “C’est plutôt rassurant”, a déclaré M. Olivery, à l’issue d’une réunion des deux réseaux qui font le point régulièrement sur la situation en Camargue. “La Camargue a été identifiée comme le site le plus à risque de France parce qu’un million d’oiseaux migrateurs y transitent, or on constate le contraire”, a déclaré M. Olivery.

                                          Le directeur du parc explique ce constat par deux facteurs: “Il n’y a aucun site d’élevage intensif de volailles sur les 100.000 hectares du parc, qui compte par ailleurs une très faible densité de population”. Un nouveau pic de migration venu d’Afrique est attendu mi-avril, “mais pas de canards”, l’un des principaux réservoirs du virus H5N1, a précisé M. Olivery, ajoutant que le parc continuait de renforcer son réseau de surveillance.”
                                          Subject: Dépêche sur le Marquenterre

                                          (its a big wetland reserve in the north of France, rivers Somme’s bay)


                                          Les responsables du parc ornithologique du Marquenterre, un des plus
                                          importants d’Europe pour l’observation des oiseaux migrateurs, sont
                                          confiants: on ne devrait pas constater l’arrivée du virus pathogène H5N1 sur
                                          leurs terres cette saison.

                                          “Les cas de virus aviaire H5N1 sur des oiseaux sauvages ont été enregistrés
                                          sur un trajet limité vers l’Ouest de ceux de la Caspienne et de la mer Noire
                                          qui voulaient échapper à la vague de froid et pas du tout sur la route
                                          classique de migration Afrique-Europe sur laquelle nous nous trouvons”,
                                          souligne Philippe Carruette, responsable du suivi scientifique et
                                          pédagogique dans cette réserve naturelle de la baie de Somme.

                                          Il soutient l’hypothèse d’une infection de ces oiseaux sauvages par le biais
                                          des fientes de poulets utilisées pour nourrir les poissons d’étangs ou pour
                                          servir d’engrais dans les prés, en Asie.

                                          Les oiseaux sauvages seraient donc “victimes et pas la cause première de
                                          l’épizootie”, souligne l’ornithologue du Marquenterre. En Afrique,
                                          remarque-t-il, le virus est apparu dans les grands élevages du Nigeria,
                                          approvisionnés en oeufs turcs et poussins chinois et on ne connaît encore
                                          aucun malade humain de la grippe aviaire qui ait été contaminé par un oiseau

                                          Depuis que le Marquenterre a noué une relation privilégiée avec l’Institut
                                          Pasteur dans les années 80, M. Carruette et d’autres membres du personnel
                                          relèvent les oiseaux morts et capturent régulièrement des spécimens vivants
                                          avec des nasses sur le territoire de la réserve.

                                          “Si on n’arrive pas à déterminer nous-mêmes les causes de la mort, on les
                                          envoie pour analyse aux services vétérinaires. Quant aux vivants, en même
                                          temps que nous les baguons (un millier en moyenne par an), nous effectuons
                                          nous-mêmes des prélèvements dans le croupion avec un coton-tige”,

                                          Résultat : au Marquenterre, si on relève régulièrement la présence de divers
                                          virus grippaux, on n’a jamais décelé l’arrivée du redouté H5N1 alors qu’on
                                          le scrute tout particulièrement depuis 1997.

                                          Pour effectuer ces opérations, les seules mesures de sécurité sont le port
                                          de gants jetables, le lavage des combinaisons de travail à 90° et un bain
                                          pédiluve pour les bottes : les précautions n’ont pas évolué avec l’alerte

                                          Actuellement au Marquenterre, les bataillons migrants de canards souchets et
                                          pilets, oies cendrées, cigognes et spatules arrivant du sud, rejoignent les
                                          canards tadornes, oies bernaches nonnettes et huîtriers-pie qui hivernaient
                                          sur place.

                                          Sur les quelque 2,5 milliards d’oiseaux qui effectuent la migration sud-nord
                                          en cette saison, il est impossible de dénombrer ceux qui passent par
                                          Marquenterre. 280 espèces peuvent être vues à un moment ou un autre sur ses
                                          250 hectares, où la biodiversité est renforcée par un aménagement optimal
                                          des étangs, vasières, roselières et lagunes.

                                          Selon les responsables, alors qu’on n’est pas encore en pleine saison, le
                                          nombre de visiteurs n’a pas vraiment décru sauf les groupes scolaires.

                                          “Les quelque 140.000 personnes qui viennent ici chaque année sont souvent
                                          bien informées. Elles ne manifestent pas de crainte particulière et posent
                                          des questions pertinentes”, souligne M. Carruette.

                                          “Nous leur disons que si en théorie tous les volatiles peuvent attraper la
                                          grippe aviaire, les probabilités sont très faibles pour les oiseaux qui ne
                                          vivent pas dans l’eau : ils peuvent donc continuer à accueillir les
                                          passereaux dans les mangeoires et les hirondelles sous les toits”.”

                                          Martin W

                                            Article on BBC site looks at the Curious Case of the Scottish Swan with H5N1.
                                            According to bird migration experts, the bird may not be native, and is a mute swan from the Baltic region or Black Sea that journeyed to the UK to escape a cold snap.

                                            “This swan could have been part of a hard weather movement,” Grahame Madge, from the RSPB, told the BBC News website.

                                            “This is where you get hard weather in the Balkans or the Black Sea and water freezes over, meaning birds that need access to fresh water need to move – sometimes a few miles, sometimes 100 miles.”

                                            Mr Madge believed that a hard weather movement could have been responsible for the spread of H5N1 to France and Germany confirmed in February.

                                            “The possibility is that this swan could have been part of the tail end of this movement, and might not have been a British-born bird at all.”

                                            Martin Fowlie from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) also suggested that this might be the case, and also raised the possibility that the swan may not have even died in the UK.

                                            “It might have been a mute swan from Eastern Europe that had flown west and might have died in the North Sea and had been washed in,” he said.
                                            Virus’ route to UK still unclear

                                            Tests show the virus is related to that found in Germany:

                                            Martin W

                                              Eleven days after a swan with the bird flu virus was found in a seaside village, scientists still do not know what species it is, they said last night. Officials suggested last week that it was a resident mute swan, but DNA tests are being carried out to provide a positive identification. As a native bird it could only have caught flu from another bird flying to Britain, possibly a summer migrant arriving in the past few weeks. In that situation, the H5N1 virus that has killed more than 100 people worldwide could have been spreading through Britain’s bird populations for some time. If the tests reveal that the carcass is that of a migratory species, such as a whooper swan, Britain could still escape a serious outbreak.

                                              An infected migrant could have died while flying across the North Sea, before being washed ashore. Mark Avery, the director of conservation for the RSPB, said it was "pathetic" that scientists had not yet identified the headless carcass, recovered from the harbour in Cellardyke, Fife, on March 30. He added: "Whenever you have a case like this you need to know the species so you can better understand how the virus got here, how it has been transmitted and what the consequences are. It ought to be standard practice whenever there is a bird brought in with a suspicion of bird flu." A Defra spokesman said it was difficult to identify the headless bird, but it appeared to have the characteristics of a mute swan. She added that DNA tests at the Central Science Laboratory in York could be completed today.

                                              Martin W

                                                turns out the Scottish swan was a whooper swan; ie a migratory species, wintering in UK and continental Europe.
                                                More potential, then, for it to have been a migrant from continent, not even dying in UK.

                                                Still, the press have had much fun with it.

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