Evidence suggests migratory birds are not a reservoir for highly pathogenic flu viruses

Spike Millington, EAAFP Chief Executive

A recent article “Evidence suggests migratory birds are not a reservoir for highly pathogenic flu viruses” discusses the results of a scientific study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  on sampling of wild waterbirds before, during and after an H5 Avian Influenza outbreak in poultry farms in North America in 2014-15.

The articles states “while wild ducks and other aquatic birds are known to be natural hosts for low pathogenic flu viruses associated with milder symptoms, the results of this study indicate that is not the case with the highly pathogenic flu viruses that are associated with more severe illness. The research suggests that wild ducks and other aquatic birds are not an ongoing source of highly pathogenic flu infection in domestic poultry”.

“Officials worked to end the outbreaks by quarantining and eliminating infected poultry. The last confirmed case occurred in June 2015. Officials worried that the highly pathogenic virus would be re-introduced into poultry farms by migratory aquatic birds carrying the virus. But none of the migratory birds included in this analysis were infected with a highly pathogenic flu virus”.

The article quotes one of the authors of the study that “such viruses have not been identified in any of the more than 100,000 wild birds tested since the flu surveillance sampling began 43 years ago”.

Hopefully, this research will reinforce the need to implement appropriate biosecurity measures for poultry operations and further dispel efforts to blame migratory waterbirds during Avian Influenza outbreaks which can lead to counter-productive policies of harassing wild birds and “disinfecting” wetlands.


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