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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bird Flu and Poultry Smuggling

A good article on the possible role of poultry smuggling in the spread of H5N1 avian influenza is (here) in the April 15 New York Times. Waterfowl are on the move, so if wild birds are commonly carrying this, we might expect to see it spreading. But so far we aren't.

That would seem to be good news for wild birds, but maybe there is a catch. How good is our monitoring of bird flu in wild birds? Check out this latest New Scientist article (here). According to the article, improper procedures have been used for testing for H5N1 in wild birds in the UK,

The problem may have been DEFRA's method of collecting samples. Crommie says DEFRA told WWT samplers to moisten a sterile swab on a stick with saline, take a faecal sample from the bird, then put the swab back in its dry plastic tube. The tubes were then kept at refrigerator temperature and taken to the testing laboratories the next day.

Both Nolting and Olsen are adamant that swabs must be immediately immersed in a saline or preservative solution, and also frozen quickly. "If you left a swab in the refrigerator in its sheath like that, it would dry out and you'd lose all your virus," says Olsen. He says whoever planned the tests "should have talked to us". DEFRA has not done large-scale flu surveys before.

"If you just want to identify the viruses present you could put it in a nutrient solution or in ethanol, but you need a transport medium," says Nolting. "We never take dry swabs." Both groups also quickly freeze samples.
Now the question is...how good is the testing of wild birds in other areas of the world? Are we missing the virus in wild bird populations elsewhere due to faulty testing techniques?

1 comment:

Razib Ahmed said...

Bird flu is yet to become a cause of concern for Europe but it has become a
grave problem for South Asia. in South Asia, the problem has two dimension. on
the one hand people are afraid of getting infected with this virus and as a
result, consumption of poultry meat has decreased and too much pressure is now
on the price and supply of beef, mutton and fish. on the other hand, poor
farmers are losing their chickens in thousands without receiving any
compensation. Suffering huge losses,
several farmers in India have
committed suicide.

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