Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bird flu conference this week

In Rome today and tomorrow, about 300 scientists from more than 100 countries will discuss bird flu -- aka highly pathogenic avian influenza -- and the possible role of wild birds in its spread.

Organized by OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) and FAO (United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation), the conference will allow scientists to compare wild birds' role versus that of domestic poultry. (Click on the map to see a larger version.)

...almost three years after HPAI first broke out in Southeast Asia, scientists are still searching for a vital piece of the puzzle as they strive to check the disease. “There is a fundamental piece of information missing,” says Joseph Domenech, FAO's chief veterinary officer.

The main problem, according to Domenech, is that no one knows for sure whether wild birds can act as long-term reservoirs of HPAI viruses such as H5N1.

“Where they are not reservoirs but only victims of contamination from poultry, then prevention has to remain at the domestic bird level,” he says. “But where they are, we have to find out which birds are involved and where they migrate to in order to prevent other wild birds and poultry being infected.”
As noted in the above link, H5N1 has killed almost 125 humans since the first outbreaks in southeast Asia in late 2003, with domestic fowl responsible for almost all of the deaths.

Map courtesy of pandemicflu.gov


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