Web Zap*Germs Archive

July 07, 2005

Avian Flu May Spread Worldwide via Migratory Birds

The VOA (and many other news sources), referring to articles in Nature and Science, reports today that scientists believe Asian bird flu might spread around the world. This would occur, despite the slaughtering of millions of infected poultry birds throughout Asia, through wild geese, gulls and other migratory birds.
[The team of microbiologist George Gao of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing] reports in the journal Science that they isolated several viruses from the birds and found that each shows the genetic hallmarks of a highly virulent strain. According to the Nature article by [Hong Kong University researcher] Yi Guan's group in Hong Kong, it is closely related to the strain that has infected poultry and people in Thailand and Vietnam.

Public health experts fear that it will merge with human influenza in a patient and create a strain that more easily circulates among people and causes a global pandemic that kills millions.

World Health Organization spokesman Dick Thompson says the birds at the Chinese [Lake Qinghai] nature reserve should be watched closely. "There's an urgent need to sample and tag and track as many of these species as feasible, especially considering the narrow time frame that we've got available to do it. We need more information on the migratory routes regarding these birds," he said.


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