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First evidence of H5N1 transmission between domestic farms and wild birds

April 12, 2016

Scott Newman, Head of the EMPRES Wildlife Health and Ecology Unit of the FAO, noted that poultry production at the southern end of the Central Asian Flyway is extensive, which has resulted in many more HPAI H5N1 outbreaks there than in the northern end, where poultry production is more limited. "In general," said Newman, "H5N1 outbreaks along this flyway mirror human and poultry densities, with domestic poultry the primary reservoir for this disease."

This study is part of a global program to not only better understand the movement of avian influenza viruses and other diseases in the Central Asian Flyway, but also to improve the understanding of the ecological habits of waterbirds internationally, identify important conservation issues, and better define interactions among wild and domestic birds.

The H5N1 virus continues to reemerge across much of Eurasia and Africa, with high fatality rates in people, and the threat of a possible global pandemic. Since 2003, H5N1 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. Sixteen countries reported H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in 2010. No HPAI H5N1 has been detected in North America, despite extensive efforts to test migratory birds to provide early warnings should birds with the virus arrive in the country.

The study was funded by the USGS, FAO, National Science Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It was published in PLoS ONE and authored by Diann J Prosser, Peng Cui, John Y. Takekawa, Scott Newman and others.

The research partnership has a website where people can follow the daily movements of the satellite-tagged birds, including maps in Google Earth.

Source: United States Geological Survey