USGS Uncovers New Link in Bird Flu's Global Spread
MONDAY MAR 28 2011
Bird flu -- also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1
-- remains a serious threat to our global health and economy. Since 2003 it has killed 300 people, including 18 in 2010, and has led to the culling of more than 250 million domestic poultry
throughout Eurasia and Africa. Although H5N1 has not yet been detected in the United States, needless to say global research on the linkages and sources of this disease is of great importance.
This month, USGS researchers published a study uncovering a new link between wild birds and domestic poultry in the spread of H5N1
. It is the first evidence of a mechanism for transmission between domestic farms and wild birds.
|WERC lead scientist John Takekawa holds a wild Bar-Headed Goose (Anser indicus) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. The goose is outfitted with a solar-powered GPS satellite transmitter, so researchers can track its migratory path across Asia and known avian flu regions. Image courtesy of Salim Javed/ Environmental Agency, UAE.
The potential involvment of wild birds in the spread of H5N1 is thus far unique to the Central Asian Flyway -- a migration path extending from India through China to Siberia. Similar studies east of this region have not found the same relationship between wild birds and disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, the bar-headed goose connection adds another link in our understanding of the virus' global spread.
This research would not have been possible without the support and participation of international partners. "We must realize that we are all globally connected," says Prosser. "What we learn in regions where this virus has become endemic is critical to preparing prevention measures in currently disease-free regions."
-- Ben Young Landis