h5n1 into Europe: let’s blame wild birds (again)

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    Martin W

      "we had expected a possible expansion of the disease through wild life," said Dr. Joseph Domenech, chief of the Animal Health Service at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, quoted in NY Times. – hadn't expected any spread via trade, then; and of course, not worth giving trade a second thought for places lying near Bosphorus (west Turkey), and elsewhere along Black Sea coast? Domenech evidently has just Nimanesque assumptions to base his statement on. Now, OIE sending team to Russia to look at bird flu in wildlife; including to see "whether there are healthy carriers of the H5N1 strain " – which have so far proven mythical beasts, despite views like Domenech's  – I earlier emailed FAO re Domenech's assumptions; didn't get reply. A medical reporter doing piece on purported role of wild birds in spreading h5n1 talked to him; he admitted he didn't have a smoking gun – ie any wild bird at all known to have spread h5n1 rather than just get sick and die.

      According to OIE alerts, both outbreaks are from farms. In Turkey, on a farm, 1700 turkeys died, 100 others killed For Romania, alert mentions 100 ducks/chickens on a farm; seems 36 cases, maybe rest destroyed. (I'd read of 45 geese dead, in news item; but news reports not always so clear.) Disturbingly, to me, says: "To be undertaken: control of wildlife reservoirs." Hopefully Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, which I've read will help investigate, can discover what this means – yet more wild birds to die thanks to something concocted on poultry farms? Also: care needed re jumping to conclusions, as shown with bird flu in n Finland (not h5n1), poultry deaths in Philippines (antibiotics not flu). [Ace conclusion-jumper Niman was quick to add both to his ink-blot test map re h5n1 spread]



        the reality in Romania is a little bit different: until Sunday at least 51 swans were found dead (50 in the Danube delta), on the seas shore of the largest Romanian Black Sea harbor (Constanta). Anther 15 seem to have been found yesterday (not dead solid, since no official statement seen yet).

        The poultry in the Danube delta is not kept in large farms, they’re kept rather for private consumption or for the “local” market. Thus the concentration of “domestic” birds is rather small.

        The Danube delta is the largest wild bird reservation in Europe and a focal transition point for bird migration between northern Eurasia and Africa, Southwestern Asia.


        Martin W

          hadn’t heard re the swans

          "All the virological tests carried out to date in Romania have failed to identify the presence of the avian influenza virus. Every day that passes … reassures us that avian influenza is not in fact present in Romania," EU Commission spokesman Philip Tod told reporters. "We hope in light of that report … to conclude … that avian influenza is not present in Romania," he added.
          Martin W

            Tests now positive; also for a turkey on a Greek island.
            Help show re making premature judgements, I guess; but not good otherwise.

            Here’s email I’ve just sent a science writer, doing piece re h5n1 and wild birds; she asked me to comment on a couple of ProMed postings.

            Where does OIE have info to support notion wild birds can carry h5n1 for long time, without ill effects?
            (True, within a population rather than individuals, for regular wild bird flus – not this poultry flu unless OIE have info I haven’t seen.)

            Evidence is to the contrary.
            We’ve seen birds inc geese, swans, ducks, die of h5n1. (Even flamingoes; also peregrines – which you’d figure are highly bird flu resistant as prey on birds inc ducks)
            Despite extensive testing, eg 7000 birds in HK last year, I’m yet to see confirmed reports of seemingly healthy wild birds with h5n1. (Might be a few I’ve missed; the Thai results just maybe – but odd; sparrows, mynas not normally migratory birds [as reported in the Nation] – I figure latter most likely to have fed around farms w infected chickens.)
            OIE sending team to Russia to look for these hypothetical “healthy” wild bird vectors.
            Until they’re found, they are making baseless allegations. Show, I think, more a political judgement than science.

            Webster has found asymptomatic domestic ducks in Vietnam. Was this same strain as migrants at Qingha?i – no.
            Otherwise, seems that have to have a form of h5n1 that can kill wild birds, killing range of species; yet mysteriously becomes benign to them so they can transmit (not making apparent impact among even populations of wild birds [we’re not seeing lots of birds dying so a few can make it along migration routes] – I’ve seen, for instance, email saying many waterfowl have passed thro Lithuania without apparent ill effects; Nial likewise re maybe a million waterfowl already to S Korea; ducks so far to Hong Kong all look fine thank you very much.)

            Virus shedding shown to happen from non-dying ducks for up to 17 days. That’s way longer than period since main outbreaks in Russia.

            Why is spread by trade unlikely just because fighting cocks not involved?
            With foot and mouth, can get plenty of spread, even when supposed controls in place (eg wikipedia article on foot and mouth in 2001 – some reached continent from UK).

            This just posted to Oriental Bird Club; interesting, I think. I’d figured on, say, some birds scavenging on chicks/chickens dying of h5n1; maybe birds feeding together with infected poultry (if, say, poultry roam fields or on ponds visited by wild birds ); by Norman D.van Swelm:

            There is no stopping unproven accusations by the press now it seems, today’s
            BBC TV reports regarding bird flu in Rumania were loaded with them and shots
            of a dead juvenile Pelican and flying flocks of adult Pelicans must clearly
            tell who is the culprit.

            If migrant birds come into contact with sick poultry how long will it take
            before the infected bird becomes ill. During an outbreak of poultry flu in
            The Netherlands some years ago migrant ducks were immediately blamed to be
            the cause of the outbreak. The Ministry of Agriculture claimed wild birds
            were known to be carriers of the virus but were themselves immune however
            they were clearly still able to infect poultry. Later the most likely cause
            of the outbreak appeared to be a migrant chicken which arrived from Italy by
            car. As far as I am aware no infected wild bird was ever found at the time!

            Nevertheless it is important to register instances where and how wild birds
            come into contact with poultry and to assess the risks involved for either
            of them. In Bahrain, poultry farms are popular birding spots. I went there
            on several occasions, the situation is that in the backyard at some distance
            of the main buildings manure is being dumped as well as dead chickens. Such
            dumps attract plenty wild birds in particular waders such as Ruff, Curlew
            Sandpiper, Dunlin but also Cattle Egrets, House Sparrows, Wagtails etc.
            Clearly this is a situation whereby wild birds can become infected by
            poultry and vice versa. Chicken manure from poultry farms is commonly used
            in agriculture and spread out over vast areas in Europe and in theory wild
            birds could come in to contact with poultry diseases.

            Best regards – and Aargh!


              Avian flu experts fear unidentified species moving H5N1 virus around Eurasia

              Helen Branswell
              Canadian Press

              Tuesday, October 18, 2005

              (CP) – The vast new geographical expansion of the dangerous H5N1 virus has avian influenza experts worried a bird version of the Stealth Bomber may be at play.

              And they readily admit that finding the asymptomatic culprit or culprits from among thousands of species of birds may be a Herculean challenge.

              “If this is a . . . virus that seems to have fixed itself in some species and we don’t know which species it is – but maybe it’s not showing any clinical sign in this particular species – how do we find this guy?” Michael Perdue, avian influenza expert with the World Health Organization, asks with evident anxiety in his voice.

              The realization that some mystery migratory birds are actually spreading the Asian virus suggests future unwanted appearances in Europe cannot be ruled out.

              But experts insist wild waterfowl are unlikely to bring the Asian H5N1 virus to North America. Genetic analysis of avian influenza viruses shows little mingling between those that circulate in North and South America and those found in Eurasia, they say.

              “Basically the viruses that are circulating in the migratory birds in the flyways that are associated with Asia, that’s a separate and distinct group of viruses from what would traditionally be found in North and South America,” says Dr. Jim Clark, acting director of the animal health and production program at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

              An expert who has been collecting avian influenza viruses from birds in the wild for decades agrees.

              “The Asian and Euroasian lineage of viruses – is different from the Western Hemisphere lineage. So our viruses aren’t crossing back and forth that readily,” says Dr. Richard Slemons of Ohio State University.

              Wild bird surveillance, once the domain of a small cadre of nearly self-funded diehards like Slemons, has taken on a whole new level of importance with the discovery of the nasty Asian H5N1 avian influenza strain in Romania, Turkey and possibly Greece.

              That discovery has turned their science on its ear.

              The researchers who study the bird part of the avian influenza equation have long insisted migratory birds were victims, not vectors, in the spread of avian flu.

              True, avian influenza outbreaks in poultry are initially ignited when a virus passes from a wild waterfowl to a domestic bird. But they argue that once that fire is lit, people – through commerce, smuggling or incompetence – fuelled its spread.

              It seemed they had science on their side. In wild birds that carry them, avian viruses live in the gut, causing no illness. Once they pass to poultry, they adapt to become a virus that causes respiratory infection, as it does in humans.

              Until H5N1 reared its very ugly head, it was thought these adapted viruses didn’t really pass back into wild water birds.

              That’s been shown to be untrue. Wild bird die-offs involving the H5N1 virus have been documented in a number of species, including whooper swans, bar-headed geese and black-and brown-headed gulls and ruddy shelducks.

              Many of those still rare events occurred near domestic poultry, leaving the possibility the wild birds were victims of their domestic cousins, not the other way around.

              That argument sprang a leak when the Asian H5N1 virus was found to have killed an array of wild birds in Mongolia – far from any infected domestic poultry flocks – last June. When the same strain was found thousands of kilometres away, in Romania and Turkey, the wild bird defenders admitted defeat.

              “I mean, 2,000 mile jumps are a little hard to explain – across mountain ranges and huge seas,” Perdue admits.

              But dead birds don’t fly, the bird experts insist. And no one believes a bird sick with H5N1 influenza could make the arduous trek from Southeast Asia to Europe either.

              So they are now considering the likelihood that some other wild bird they haven’t identified is carrying the virus from place to place. The wild bird die-offs, they think, occur when the carrier birds come in contact with other wild birds that are susceptible to the virus.

              “One thing we know about highly pathogenic viruses” – this H5N1 is a high path virus – “is they’re not highly pathogenic to all species,” says Dr. David Halvorson, a veterinarian who specializes in avian health at the University of Minnesota.

              “So . . . the birds that are dying may not be responsible for transmitting it from one place to another. They might be victims of some other cousin bird that’s transmitting it that’s less affected by it.”

              And it may not be just one species of carrier birds.

              “It could be several different bird species that can be infected and possibly fly far distances and shed virus and transmit the virus,” says Dr. David Swayne, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga.

              “It’s just a matter that no one has found that species yet. The only thing they’ve found has been the dead birds when an outbreak has been found in wild birds.”

              Complicating the matter is the fact that even among birds that carry these viruses, only a portion of a species will be infected at any one time. A negative test wouldn’t rule out the species, only that individual bird at that specific time.

              Swayne suggests if the culprit or culprits are discovered, it could be a chance finding.

              “It may be kind of difficult,” he admits.


              Martin W

                Hi Candy:

                Many thanks for posting this.

                I’ve emailed Helen (who earlier did piece inc me saying re dead birds don’t fly):

                A species no one has ever found – hahaha, X-Files fans rejoice!

                With foot-n-mouth in 2001, the disease made it from UK to continental Europe by transport unknown (Wikipedia) – no one invoked mysterious flying cow relatives.
                One bird flu case (in US?) was, I’m told, traced to poultry crates w droppings being transported hundreds of km.

                H5N1 now in western Russia – so not 2000km.

                More data needed.

                Yours undefeated (till that X-Files Bird is found!),

                I should add that h5n1 been shown to be lethal in range of birds (partly thanks to ornamental/zoo collections) – inc swans, geese, ducks (major regular, wild bird flu carriers – and apparently unaffected by these viruses), plus flamingoes, crows, birds of prey…
                – also kills tigers, civets, humans, mice; so even excluding birds, nothing yet found the h5n1 variant can’t kill (a significant proportion of).
                (There have been asymptomatic domestic ducks found in Vietnam; maybe not same strain as to Europe, and not clear if this spreads. Recent outbreak just killed domestic ducks there.)
                – so I’m sceptical there is such a species.

                Plus, for all the hooha in Europe, here in Asia we’ve so far got far fewer outbreaks than over 2003/04.
                More data, more results; less hasty conclusions (eg Helen B’s article seemingly done before western Russia outbreaks reported [when did they start; tough to know real details like this])


                Martin W

                  Helen’s prompt reply:

                  That made me laugh!

                  I thought about sending you a copy of the piece, but it slipped my mind. Should have known if someone was maligning birds you would see it!

                  You are in a dwindling club, I am afraid. Your fellow bird folk are very worried.

                  I shall stay tuned,


                  – and mine to this:

                  I’m worried too; but don’t believe all’s certain yet.
                  Conjuring X-Files Birds is a bit like having fudge factors in physics, for gaps in knowledge that can’t be explained.
                  Could also moot X-Files Traders, with cheep poultry (vaccinated?) from areas hit by h5n1.

                  Watching with immense interest as we move towards end of autumn (mid to end of next month), when more cold tolerant geese, swans etc into winter quarters. If wild birds really spreading it around, surely should be plenty more outbreaks with strong links to wild birds; till now, a great many birds have moved, across great swathe of Eurasia, but outbreaks v few.

                  All the best,

                  Martin W

                    Just heard on Hong Kong radio:
                    Taiwan just confirmed first case of bird flu, in batch of birds smuggled from mainland China.


                      Martin wrote:

                      Hi Candy:

                      Many thanks for posting this.

                      I’ve emailed Helen (who earlier did piece inc me saying re dead birds don’t fly):

                      A species no one has ever found – hahaha, X-Files fans rejoice!

                      With foot-n-mouth in 2001, the disease made it from UK to continental Europe by transport unknown (Wikipedia) – no one invoked mysterious flying cow relatives.
                      One bird flu case (in US?) was, I’m told, traced to poultry crates w droppings being transported hundreds of km.

                      H5N1 now in western Russia – so not 2000km.

                      More data needed.

                      Yours undefeated (till that X-Files Bird is found!),

                      I should add that h5n1 been shown to be lethal in range of birds (partly thanks to ornamental/zoo collections) – inc swans, geese, ducks (major regular, wild bird flu carriers – and apparently unaffected by these viruses), plus flamingoes, crows, birds of prey…
                      – also kills tigers, civets, humans, mice; so even excluding birds, nothing yet found the h5n1 variant can’t kill (a significant proportion of).
                      (There have been asymptomatic domestic ducks found in Vietnam; maybe not same strain as to Europe, and not clear if this spreads. Recent outbreak just killed domestic ducks there.)
                      – so I’m sceptical there is such a species.

                      Plus, for all the hooha in Europe, here in Asia we’ve so far got far fewer outbreaks than over 2003/04.
                      More data, more results; less hasty conclusions (eg Helen B’s article seemingly done before western Russia outbreaks reported [when did they start; tough to know real details like this])


                      You forgot flies and bats! ;) Now with new outbreaks in China,Thailand and Vietnam, who knows? I think there could be another reservior which could lead eveyone to sing: I’m a little bit wrong and You’re a little bit right, or whatever those lyrics are. :)

                      Martin W
                        Genoa, 18 Oct. (AKI) – Italian customs police have confiscated 3,000 chickens, 36,000 duck eggs and 260 frozen ducks illegally imported from China.

                          ‘Bird trade more of a threat than migration’

                          By Philippe Siuberski

                          Brussels – International dealing and trafficking in wild birds poses a greater risk of spreading bird flu than healthy migratory birds, which are being made into “scapegoats,” a Belgian bird protection society has warned.

                          Wild bird trade and smuggling “represent the principal risks of dispersion of avian flu in industrialised countries,” said Hugues Fanal, director of the Belgian bird protection league.

                          Migratory birds were being made the scapegoats for the spread of the disease, he claimed.

                          ‘A general ban… would foster creation of a black market’
                          “Until there is proof to the contrary,” the official said, “no wild bird in good health capable of migrating has been observed to carry this virus.”

                          “Wild birds carrying the virus in Asia or eastern Siberia were either dead or dying, and always close to contaminated poultry farms.

                          “So it’s more likely that it’s domestic fowl which have contaminated wild birds and not the other way round,” Fanal claimed.

                          The death of a South American parrot in quarantine in Britain has prompted fears that a strain of the bird flu virus that is deadly to humans could have reached Western Europe.

                          On Saturday Britain urged the EU to impose a ban on the import all live wild birds.

                          “The government is calling on the European Commission to ban live wild birds,” a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told AFP, after the parrot tested positive for bird flu.

                          Imports of poultry, which are domesticated birds, would still be allowed, said the official.

                          Animal welfare minister Ben Bradshaw said the formal request for such a ban had been made Saturday.

                          “This is actually something that we’ve been considering for some time before the death of the parrot. It just so happens that the formal request has been made now,” Bradshaw said in a BBC Radio interview.

                          The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) both appealed for an EU ban on wild birds after Friday’s announcement that the parrot had died of bird flu.

                          The country was awaiting results of tests to find out whether the bird had the H5N1 virus strain that has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.

                          Britain officially registered the avian flu case Friday when the H5 strain was found in the parrot imported from Suriname and which died in British quarantine, where it had been held in the same areas as birds from Taiwan.

                          The European Union’s executive Commission has refrained from imposing a general ban on imports of domesticated birds such as parrots, budgerigars and canaries, arguing it would be counter-productive because it would foster creation of a black market not subject to health controls.

                          But this parallel black market already exists, as was shown last year when two eagles infected with avian flu were discovered at Brussels airport.

                          Customs officials found the pair alive in the baggage of a passenger arriving from Thailand, hidden in plastic tubing.

                          The French health protection agency AFSSA said Friday the advance of bird flu through Russia did not fit in with the usual flight pattern of migratory birds, but followed trans-Siberian rail routes which are major communication axes.

                          The “probable” hypothesis that the virus had accompanied poultry transported by human hand “does not challenge the possibility of a role played by migratory birds, but it puts into perspective the respective weight between human activities linked to legal or illegal traffic, and the propagation of the virus by wild fauna,” AFSSA noted.

                          Following their discovery of the dead parrot, British officials said the quarantine system had nevertheless worked well and Britain was still free of bird flu.

                          “The UK authorities have taken all the appropriate measures to contain the disease,” the European Commission also said approvingly in a statement here.

                          Brussels has imposed conditions since 2000 on imports of parrots, budgerigars and canaries including a 30-day quarantine during which the birds undergo tests for contagious disease.

                          The Commission says Britain’s dead parrot is the first case of avian flu being detected in quarantine in the EU.

                          The precautions have previously proved their worth in preventing the introduction into EU of the highly contagious Newcastle disease, the Commission noted.

                          Newcastle diseases attacks birds, both domestic and wild, with chickens the most vulnerable poultry, and is endemic in many countries of the world. – Sapa-AFP

                          Martin W

                            Genoa, 18 Oct. (AKI) – Italian customs police have confiscated 3,000
                            chickens, 36,000 duck eggs and 260 frozen ducks illegally imported from

                            Checking whether eggs can harbour virus, I quickly find (with Google):

                            Bird flu virus found in 45 eggs at Chinese airport checkpoint – about H5N1 found in eggs from chickens, ducks and geese, flown from Vietnam to Guangzhou, in May this year.

                            Passengers flying from Vietnam to Guangzhou, China, were carrying eggs infected with the bird (avian) flu H5N1virus, say Chinese officials. Officials say they have detected a total of 45 infected eggs from two separate flights. This is the first case of infected eggs in a Chinese airport in two years.

                            Officials were concerned because the eggs came from a variety of birds (chicken, goose and duck) and two separate flights. Many are wondering how many have got through.

                            The whole area has been disinfected (where the eggs were).

                            plus, of course, the virus need not be in the eggs – can be on the shells, from faeces

                            Post edited by: martin, at: 2005/10/24 12:07


                              Hi; I log onto this site because it is fascinating to see people insist that wild birds and their migration paths have nothing to do with the spread of h5n1 when major international organizations from the EU to WHO appear to be operating on the opposite premise. The slogan that dead ducks don’t fly seems more political than scientific. Dead ducks may not fly but sick ones might. Dead birds may not fly but infected ones who are not yet sick might. The arguments I see here sound like creationists arguing against evolution because they have not seen a creature with half an eyeball.


                              Martin W

                                Thanks, Tony

                                Next time you log on, maybe read as well.



                                  Dr. Martin; OK I’ll try to do that. Is there a favored explanation for why the various international organizations – with all the presumed scientific expertise at their disposal – emphasize the role of migratory birds in the spread of h5n1?


                                  Martin W

                                    Hi again:

                                    My belief is that for various officials, wild birds make easy scapegoats (better than saying may be problems with poultry industry – both economically and strategically important).
                                    And connection maybe seems easy – this is “bird flu”, and birds move around. Suits the media, when want headlines while only look superficially. Wild birds migrating from China and Russian with deadly disease – how scary is that?!

                                    Sometimes, seems officials may take little notice of science. Eg Lee of WHO, saying re wild birds’ importance; while another (lower in chain in WHO, but more in contact with science?) – a WHO flu expert as I recall – said he felt they’re not too important.

                                    In FAO, Domenech at top blames’ wild birds; yet a vet with extensive experience of H5N1 in the field in Asia, including working for FAO, believes wild birds aren’t major vectors (Les Sims, posted to one of threads here). Again, the guy who knows details, vs someone with more cursory overview – it seems to me. [Domenech quoted in a thread here; admits he has no smoking gun, no species he can point to that’s moving flu.]

                                    “Dead birds don’t migrate” used by guy with US Geol Service, which actually doing bird flu in wild birds work. Dunno if came from my Dead Ducks Don’t Fly article, via links on left here (Bird Flu n Wild Birds).
                                    Pultry disease expert in US, Swayne [sp?], also believed wild birds not vectors – less sure now after Romania.
                                    [I’d ask: if wild birds spreading, why are no wild bird outbreaks currently known in Asia? Plenty of migrants moving and moved here this autumn. May yet see outbreaks, but as yet, no. I was at wetland w migrants in HK today; all looking as normal, tho given leaflet with guidelines re flu, inc washing hands before using telescope]

                                    You mention evolution; see re evolutionary biology. In essence, with bird flu, Dead Ducks’ Don’t Fly; explains why natural wild bird flus are “mild”, and to me strongly suggests/shows wild birds can’t be major vectors for highly pathogenic flus – bearing out all results till this year, anyway. [Similarly, why human flus tend to be none too dangerous]
                                    I haven’t seen decent counter-arguments.

                                    More info still needed; more will come as autumn comes to close over next v few weeks.


                                    Martin W

                                      from Taichi Kato, an ornithologist in Japan:

                                      This news in Science magazine adequately summarizes the most up-to-date
                                      facts and discussions in the role of migratory birds potentially spreading
                                      the current H5N1 HPAI. If you can access to the online journal, make a
                                      visit at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/310/5747/426 .

                                      “Are Wild Birds to Blame?”
                                      Dennis Normile
                                      Science 21 October 2005: 426-428.

                                      [Some excerpts and comments]

                                      As H5N1 reaches Europe, scientists debate the role of wild birds but agree
                                      on the need for greater surveillance

                                      But avian experts have been almost universally skeptical that wild birds are
                                      spreading the virus. One reason is that sampling of tens of thousands of birds
                                      has failed to turn up a single healthy wild bird carrying the pathogenic
                                      strain of H5N1,

                                      -> No direct evidence of carrying H5N1.

                                      Evidence so far suggests that H5N1 kills wild ducks and geese nearly as
                                      efficiently as it does chickens. “Dead ducks don’t fly” has been the refrain,
                                      as avian experts point out that sick and dying birds simply can’t spread
                                      viruses very far. Instead, epidemiologists investigating the virus’s jump,
                                      even to geographically far-flung regions, keep turning up evidence suggesting
                                      that the poultry trade and other human activities are responsible.

                                      -> This statement is slightly a bit different from the recent WHO/OIE
                                      fact summaries. They consider that H5N1 is less pathogenic to
                                      migratory ducks and geese. I suspect that this WHO/OIE statement
                                      is a precautionary one (to prepare the worst case) rather than
                                      evidence-based analysis.

                                      Now, however, evidence implicating wild birds is starting to convince even
                                      some of the doubters. “Until about 2 months ago, I was pretty skeptical on
                                      whether wild birds were playing a role,” says David Suarez, a virologist with
                                      the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Southeast Poultry Research

                                      What changed his mind, he says, was the death of 100 or so ducks, gulls,
                                      geese, and swans from H5N1 at a remote lake in Mongolia that he believes
                                      can’t be explained by human activities. And, he and others add, in an
                                      unexpected twist, it’s beginning to look as though the culprits might not
                                      be the long-suspected migratory waterfowl but another yet-unidentified wild

                                      -> This indicates that (even in the presence of European findings),
                                      at least some epidemiologists consider the Mongolian cases most compelling.
                                      [This is the same reason why I have been following the Mongolian case
                                      in depth]. There must have been a far greater chance of human and poultry
                                      contacts in crowded Europe than in Mongolia. There have even been a report
                                      of poultry meat seized from Turkey even after the ban of poultry trade
                                      from Turkey. In relation to the second suspected occurrence in Turkey,
                                      the local media reported the presence of live chicken movements from the
                                      region of the initial outbreak, sufficient to suspect the presence of
                                      routine trade activities.

                                      Nailing down the answer became even more urgent last week with the
                                      confirmation that H5N1 has now entered Europe.

                                      Everyone recognizes that if wild birds are involved, new strategies will be
                                      needed to halt the virus’s spread to domestic flocks–and from them to people.
                                      A growing number of scientists and organizations are calling for dramatically
                                      increased global surveillance to profile all viruses circulating in wild

                                      -> This is the true reason why European cases are so weighed; these
                                      cases are not “better proofs” of transmission by migratory birds, but
                                      are an alarm to the global community to face the problem as a serious
                                      threat: all nations need to make a surveilance network of wild birds
                                      and poultry, and there is an urgent need of international cooperation
                                      for funding. The FAO and OIE statement, however, has been regarded as
                                      fear by the public against wild birds…

                                      So far, however, there is no known natural reservoir for highly pathogenic
                                      avian influenza viruses. They emerge only after low-pathogenicity viruses
                                      jump from water birds into chickens and turkeys.

                                      -> We always need to stress that LPAI (natural strain) and HPAI have
                                      different characteristics in the wildlife.

                                      No one has yet uncovered the lineage of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain now
                                      endemic in Asia. Presumably, it evolved from a low-pathogenicity H5N1 variant
                                      circulating in waterfowl in southern China before the first known outbreak of
                                      the disease in chickens in Hong Kong in 1997.

                                      -> This information is precious for those who have been searching for
                                      an ancestral strain of the current H5N1 HPAI: the answer is “not discovered

                                      When public health experts pointed to migratory birds as a likely source,
                                      ornithologists and animal epidemiologists showed that the outbreaks did not
                                      neatly fit any known migratory patterns. If migratory birds were carriers,
                                      they argued, the virus should have turned up in the Philippines and Taiwan
                                      by now, but it hasn’t.

                                      -> This also explains why health officials (including WHO’s Lee, the
                                      biotechnology company such as Recombinomics) usually stress on wild birds.
                                      The more the possibilty of a pandemic is spoken, the more health officials
                                      (rather than wildlife researchers) are asked to make a public statement,
                                      likely addressing on migratory birds.

                                      -> The recent discovery of H5N1 in smuggled birds in Taiwan is a notifiable
                                      feat, since if a secondary outbreak may have arisen, that would have easily
                                      been identified as the most compelling evidence of migratory birds
                                      transmitting the virus (since migration is already in place).

                                      What’s more, since the late 1990s, USDA has sampled more than 10,000 waterfowl
                                      crossing the Bering Sea from Asia to Alaska, while University of Hong Kong
                                      researchers have tested several thousand entering Hong Kong; neither group
                                      has found a single healthy bird carrying the H5N1 virus.

                                      -> Accumulating negative data.

                                      Instead, human movements of infected poultry have spread the virus over
                                      seemingly improbable distances. For instance, an outbreak of H5N1 among
                                      poultry in Lhasa, Tibet, in January 2004 was traced to a shipment of chickens
                                      from Lanzhou in China’s Gansu Province, about 1500 kilometers away. An even
                                      more bizarre case surfaced in October 2004, when an air traveler was caught
                                      at Brussels Airport with two crested hawk eagles, infected with H5N1, in his
                                      carry-on bag. The smuggler had bought them at a Bangkok bird market on behalf
                                      of a Belgian falconer.

                                      -> Perhaps this would clarify the Lhasa case (which people would have
                                      concerned about). Lanzhou is located not very far away from Qinghai lake
                                      (any relation between them?).

                                      More explanation about Qinghai case:

                                      The die-off immediately raised alarms that surviving birds might carry the
                                      virus to India and beyond. But, apparently because of infighting between
                                      Chinese ministries and institutions, the government barred Chinese and outside
                                      scientists from sampling or tracking the travel of surviving birds.
                                      “It was a missed opportunity,”

                                      Researchers are still wondering how the virus got to this remote corner of
                                      China. Just after the Lake Qinghai outbreak, the virus turned up on a poultry
                                      farm in the same province. This “makes it difficult to tell whether poultry
                                      or wild birds brought the virus to the area,” says Suarez.

                                      at Erkhel Lake. The group collected 774 samples from both dead and living
                                      birds. USDA confirmed highly pathogenic H5N1 in dead birds–but found no
                                      evidence of the virus in any samples from the live ducks, gulls, geese,
                                      or swans.

                                      is that wild birds carried the virus to Erkhel Lake and infected the birds
                                      that eventually died. “We don’t know which species were responsible for
                                      spreading the virus,”

                                      Figuring out which species might be involved will be tough, others note,
                                      as next to nothing is known about avian influenza except in waterfowl.

                                      Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Since last March, he has collected more
                                      than 6000 viral and serological samples from a variety of wild animals
                                      throughout China, including 2000 samples from migratory and resident birds,
                                      and is searching for H5N1.

                                      George Gao, a virologist at CAS’s Institute of Microbiology in Beijing, has
                                      collected several dozen serum samples from birds that survived the H5N1
                                      outbreak at Qinghai Lake. If any test positive for antibodies to the H5N1
                                      virus, says Gao, who is preparing to publish a paper, it would suggest that
                                      some mildly infected water birds might be carrying the virus long distances.

                                      -> This indicates (at least up to now) that no “virus positive” healthy
                                      migratory bird was discovered after the outbreak at Qinghai Lake, pending
                                      the publication of the mentioned work.

                                      Martin W
                                        MOSCOW, October 27 (RIA Novosti, Maria Gusarova) – The Moscow Zoo’s Chief Veterinarian said Thursday that the cause of the bird flu outbreak is the unmonitored transit of domestic birds, not wild bird migration.

                                        “No one has proved anywhere that the carriers of avian flu are wild birds…However, the black market for trading animals provides all the conditions for the unmonitored transit of un-examined birds,” Valentin Kozlitin said.


                                        Martin W
                                          Bird flu arrived in Russia in very curious way. We were told that the virus was introduced by ducks that migrated to the Altai region. When you look at the map, you discover that these ducks not only crossed the Himalayas on their way from India to the Altai, they made the trip in mid-summer when migratory birds tend not to fly very far. Not to mention that the incubation period of bird flu is such that the ducks would have keeled over in the Himalayas. When you plot the reported outbreaks of bird flu on the map, however, you can’t help noticing that the route chosen by those wild ducks — Altai, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Kurgan, Chelyabinsk, Tula — coincides quite closely with major railroad lines.

                                            I am the Chief of Staff of the Municipality of Candaba, Pampanga, Philippines. We have the Candaba swamp where some 44 species of migratory birds congregate from September to March. We are closely monitoring their arrival especially at the Candaba Wildlife Reserve where at least four migrant duck species, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Northern Pintail together with our resident Philippine Duck. We are enforcing strict measures to keep domestic animals away from the wild birds. So far we have not found a single migrant dead or looking sick. We are particularly vigilant about the migrant egrets like the Little Egret, the Intermediate Egret and the Great Egret that are most daring in going close to poultry. I read that on record there is only one case of Little Egret that died because of H5N1. We are actually more worried about getting the H5N1 through smuggling of exotic birds. Lately we spotted some of them in the wild prompting us to think that their owners released them after getting scared of bird flu. They did not migrate. They simply took the plane or ship. Countries should really ban trade of wildbirds and animals.


                                              Thousands of migrants pass through the Candaba Swamp each year and hopefully the harmony established between the wild birds and our toiling masses will not be destroyed. 

                                              Martin W

                                                Hi Lenny:

                                                Thanks for the posts; I’ve added the photo to one.

                                                In Hong Kong, one or two dead Little Egrets tested positive. Most of our Little Egrets are resident, and this/these birds at pond in an urban park, with ornamental ducks etc that were killed by H5N1 (at much the same time as H5N1 in local poultry farms)

                                                Yes, smuggled birds could indeed be a problem.
                                                Hope Candaba remains h5n1 free!


                                                Martin W

                                                  Mute Swans that have died of h5n1 in Croatia this autumn were said to have carried the virus from breeding grounds in Russia. No details were given; apparently no thought re whether they could make such a flight with the disease, and whether took a remarkably long time from them catching it to succumbing.

                                                  Anyway, just seen this, re a dying swan that had been ringed (banded) when it stopped over in Hungary:

                                                  The ring number is 10JJ.

                                                  The bird was caught and marked on 9 September at Balatonfüred.

                                                  It was still observed on 22 September at the same place.

                                                  It was observed in Croatia on 19 October at the same place where it has been found dead.

                                                  … it is very likely that the bird got the AI in Croatia.

                                                  Later info: turns out the swans had h5n1 before arriving on the fishponds in Croatia.
                                                  But, from western Europe (not Siberia), so still a mystery where they contracted the virus. Other waterbirds on the ponds not infected.

                                                  Post edited by: martin, at: 2005/12/09 08:50

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