- Hello Jeff - I am, quite frankly, worried about H5N1
research around the globe and the push to develop human (live virus) vaccine.
Furthermore, I am concerned about the chimera bird flu viruses being developed
as we speak. We know that several of the SARS outbreaks were caused by
- At this point in time, I am even more concerned about
Spanish Flu/H5N1 chimera or an H5N1/human flu chimera escaping a lab.
We know the bird flu virus is being sent around for 'research' to a number
of labs...and mistakes happen (sometimes intentionally...).
- I also believe that people need to assess the risk -
or lack of risk - before "volunteering" for a bird flu vaccine
that is 1. dangerous and 2. unnecessary.
- People also need to evaluate the danger of using tamiflu
or any other antiviral. It is my fear that antivirals will be overused
and misused as were antibiotics.
- It is beginning to look like bird flu is changing its
epidemiology and it is NOT traveling with migratory birds, if we are to
believe the following report.
- Patricia Doyle
- Bird Flu Fails To Migrate As Expected
By Andrew Bridges
Associated Press Writer
- WASHINGTON - Bird flu appears
more likely to wing its away around the globe by plane than by migrating
birds. Scientists have been unable to link the spread of the virus to migratory
patterns, suggesting that the thousands of wild birds that have died, primarily
waterfowl and shore birds, are not primary transmitters of bird flu.
- If that holds true, it would suggest that shipments of
domestic chickens, ducks and other poultry represents a far greater threat
than does the movement of wild birds on the wing.
- It also would underscore the need to pursue the virus
in poultry farms and markets rather than in wild populations of birds if
a possible pandemic is to be checked, U.S. and European experts said.
- The H5N1 strain has infected millions of poultry throughout
Asia and parts of Europe since 2003. The virus also has killed at least
71 people, many of whom had close contact with poultry.
- To date, the virus hasn't been shown to spread from person
to person, but many fear that it could mutate into a strain that could,
potentially killing millions in a global pandemic.
- While the prospect that migrating birds could carry the
virus worldwide still worries health authorities, that sort of scenario
doesn't appear to be playing out.
- "There is more and more evidence building up that
wild migratory birds do play some role in spreading the virus, but personally
I believe - and others agree - that it's not a major role," said Ward
Hagemeijer, a wild bird ecologist with Wetlands International, a conservation
group in Wageningen, Netherlands. "If we would assume based on this
evidence that wild birds would be a major carrier of the disease we would
expect a more dramatic outbreak of the disease all over the world."
- Reports this summer and fall of the spread of the H5N1
strain strongly suggested wild birds were carrying the disease outward
from Asia as they followed migration patterns that crisscross the Earth.
The timing and location of outbreaks in western China, Russia, Romania,
Turkey and Croatia seemed to point to wild birds en route to winter grounds.
- That put places like Alaska, where birds from the Old
and New Worlds gather each summer to create what some call an "international
viral transfer center," on alert that the virus could arrive this
coming spring. And from there, species like the buff-breasted sandpiper
and others that split their time between North and South America could
in theory transport the virus farther afield.
- Since the early fall, however, there have been only scattered
reports of more outbreaks. The disease has been glaringly absent, for example,
from western Europe and the Nile delta, where many presumed it would crop
up as migrating birds returned to winter roosts.
- That suggests the strain has evolved to specifically
exploit domestic poultry, whose short lives spent in tight flocks mean
a virus has to skip quickly from bird to bird if it is to survive, said
Hon Ip, a virologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife
Health Center in Madison, Wis.
- That also means that while the virus can pass from domestic
to wild birds, the latter may not be suited as transmitters of the strain
- at least so far.
- "By the timing of the spread and the pattern of
outbreaks within a country and between countries, it does not make sense
relative to a role for migratory birds as a means of spreading the virus,"
- For example, the virus killed thousands of bar-headed
geese in May and June at Lake Qinghai in western China. The deaths raised
immediate fears that the virus was on the move, jumping among hosts in
the wild. In the Aug. 19 issue of the journal Science, scientists wrote
that the virus "has the potential to be a global threat."
- But Ip and others suggest the lake is not as remote and
pristine as initially portrayed, and that poultry raised in the area could
have been the source of the flu strain that killed the geese.
- "It is still patchy - the pattern of outbreaks -
to really make a very definitive link between migratory birds and the disease,"
said Marco Barbieri, the scientific and technical officer for the United
Nations Environmental Program's convention on migratory species in Bonn,
- Experts caution that wild birds cannot be ruled out as
future transmitters of the H5N1 strain, which has yet to be detected in
North America. Migratory birds, for example, have been clearly implicated
in the spread of West Nile virus, which has killed at least 762 people
in the U.S. since 2002.
- The H5N1 flu strain already is known to be lethal to
nearly 60 species of birds; further mutations of the strain could allow
it to infect many more. One of the latest victims is the Asian tree sparrow,
according to a study published in the December issue of the Journal of
- "The dogma right now is it is the waterfowl - ducks,
sandpipers, gulls, plovers - essentially any bird that is water-associated,"
said A. Townsend Peterson, a University of Kansas professor and curator
of the school's Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center.
"I will predict that that dogma will eventually fall by the wayside.
I will guess that what we will eventually see is that avian influenza is
much more widely distributed among birds and that land birds also play
a significant role in the picture."
- That has made increasing the understanding of the migratory
routes followed by birds more important than ever. It also draws attention
to how little is still known about the routes.
- The conventional maps that show flyways as fat arrows
that can span continents and oceans lack the nuance and detail of how birds
really move, including when and in what numbers, experts said. The maps
also can gloss over how migratory patterns can vary among subspecies.
- Traditional methods like bird watching and banding are
helping flesh out the maps. And now tracking by satellite or radio, as
well as genetic and isotopic sampling, are playing an increased role in
sussing out the finer details of where birds travel and when.
- In places like Alaska, where millions of individual birds
representing more than 200 species arrive each spring, scientists readily
confess the situation isn't all clear.
- "Fuzzy would be an operative word. We are in the
process of defining the Alaskan migration system, and it is remarkably
complex," said Kevin Winker, curator of birds and an associate professor
at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
- In the United States, the U.S. Geological Survey, Fish
and Wildlife Service and the Agriculture Department plan next year to step
up their surveillance of wild flocks of birds.
- In the past several weeks, scientists have winnowed down
their list of birds they want to keep tabs on, said Dirk Derksen, a biologist
with the USGS Alaska Science Center in Anchorage. All spend at least part
of the year in Asia.
- Early detection would buy time in forestalling the further
spread of the virus - a situation no one wants.
- "Initially, wild birds are primarily victims. Someday
they may become vectors. We don't know how that will play out," Ip
said. "What I would like to see is the virus stopped before it gets
to America so we don't see the last reel of this film played out in North
Patricia A. Doyle, DVM, PhD-
Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
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