scenario for trade taking h5n1 flu to russia

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    Martin W

      Another post I've also put on [] thread (after all, that was a thread I started!) Right, time for a story. One that might include some arm-waving (birder's wing-flapping!) and jumping to conclusions. But does not require migratory birds to be heading in quite the wrong directions (strong northward component in late summer/early autumn, when they'll be sedentary on breeding grounds or with some southward movement), or geese made flightless by wing moults walking huge distances northwards. By May, h5n1 infected poultry (chickens, geese, ducks) from main h5n1 reservoir in south/east China – where infections masked by vaccinations – moving into northwest China.

      There were some outbreaks; but reports not surfacing. (Remember, h5n1 was [all too easily?] found by Nature authors in se China, where no outbreaks reported.) Perhaps via slurry from an affected farm entering watercourses, wild birds at or about to arrive at Qinghai Lake were infected. (And there was poultry in the area: some 20,000 slaughtered in wake of Qinghai outbreak: Avian flu casts shadow over beauty of China's bird lake Major outbreak resulted. Soon afterwards (early June reports), there was a major outbreak in farm geese in northern Xinjiang, right on Chna's northern border. Emergency measures taken; over 13,000 domestic geese (and ducks and chickens??) culled, after 460 geese had died of h5n1.

      Market prices in the area plummetted. Perhaps anticipating further trouble, farmers and traders wanted to sell birds; maybe hoping to sell before they too were affected by culling – and hoping they could act before infection spread. One or more consignments of poultry at reduced prices (chickens going cheep … tho may have been geese, ducks) sold across border to Russia.

      These birds to markets; mixed with other poultry. Despite the 2003/04 outbreaks in east and southeast Asia, officials in the area hadn't planned for bird flu arrival; hadn't implemented decent biosecurity. There were outbreaks, maybe not looking like much trouble; also, infections spreading along highways and byways, thro markets, reaching household farms. (one report mentioned 65 households affected – you really think migratory birds just hop from household to household? And we're not talking sparrows for vectors.)

      Outbreaks became significant. Reports emerging, official action; yet still denials (till v recently) that a need for banning poultry exports from a key affected area. Again, poultry excrement into slurry, and wild birds at Chany Lake infected as at Qinghai. (Read little re Chany: shallow lake w vegetation; sounds like lake I've been to in Inner Mongolia, which has plenty of people around it, suffers from agricultural run-off.) Also, market prices tumbling (one report mentions it's now hard to even sell sandwich with sausage to places in east Europe). Farmers and traders wanting to move birds, again maybe clear out before major trouble. Through such trade, especially, virus "hopped" several hundred km to west. (Far more plausible, I think, than some unknown species making a bizarre several hundred km flight to west; migration routes overwhelmingly have strong north-south components.)

      Officials again blaming wild birds – politically far more convenient; OIE – an inter-government organisation that can't even get abbreviation right (hah, cheap shot) – pretty much just repeating official word. Yet, even whilst such blame, I notice officials have road blocks up, so they're not fully backing birds as vectors. If this is right: expect more outbreaks that can't be explained by wild bird movements (not without saying what's known about wild birds likely wrong, as Niman suggested).

      Even if not entirely correct, I believe it will have strong elements that true. (Niman earlier forecast that after Qinghai, there would be outbreaks to south, east and west, as birds migrated [south]. These outbreaks are far to the north of Qinghai, so one wild birds as vectors forecast has proven wrong so far. Look for more errors, more need for rewriting what's known re wild birds – to make "facts" fit the story.) Wild birds blamed for 2003/04 spread to east and se Asia. But take care to look, and there isn't one credible instance (I know of) for birds being other than victims; it would be very strange were there really such a change in spread to present. (Or, maybe there's a cleavage site that only travels by certain means?!)

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