The Reading Eagle ran a story on bird flu, and I was featured in the accompanying sidebar article.
Some doubt wild birds a threat
By Dan Kelly
Not everyone agrees that avian influenza will be carried to Berks County on the wings of a migratory bird.
Experts at the Audubon Society and the Pennsylvania Game Commission said that man and not wild birds will be a more likely culprit.
"If bird flu ever does get to North America, it will probably arrive via illegal poutry sumggling from infected countries," said Rob Fergus of the Audubon Society's Philadelphia office. "There are very few birds that cross the Atlantic--possibly a few greater white-fronted geese from Greenland, and an odd gull or other bird here or there.
"Wild birds from the Old World do nest in Alaska, and they are being monitored for bird flu virus, but so far nothing has materialized."
In addition, Fergus said the bird flu is found more in waterfowl and pooutry flocks and not in most wild birds.
Fergus agreed that backyard poultry will be the first birds at risk of infection [note: not sure where this came from, maybe industrial poultry a more likely first infection possibility]. However, he said other infected domestic birds and not wild birds will be the disease carriers.
"Wild birds in turn will be most at risk of infection from mingling with backyard poultry stocks or from infected poultry waste that is disposed of as fertilizer in fields or discharged into waterways," Fergus said.
Dan Brauning, a wildlife diversity coordinator with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said wild birds mainly migrate from north to south and not east to west.
"The way it has spread from Southeast Asia to Iran, Turkey and so on has been tied to the transporation of captive birds and not to wild bird migration," Brauning said.
He said he believes captive poultry and caged exotic pet birds imported sometimes illegally from lands where the bird flu already is present likely will be the source of infection in the U.S.
As far as wild bird migration carrying the flu here, Brauning siad only a small number of species travel between continents.
"Most of U.S. birds that migrate do so within the U.S." he said: "I think the oceans will protect us."
Funny to see how you are quoted, and though I might quibble with a thing here and there, that's what you get when you talk to the press. But the main message is here, wild bird migration is probably not the most likely way that H5N1 avian influenza will get to the United States.
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