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Bright Birds That Eternally Flu
April 9, 2006 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Bird flu update: "At this moment, birds that travel flyways in Asia, where most bird flu cases have been found, are mingling with birds that fly through North America." Officials in Kansas and Ohio warn it will arrive this fall, as those birds fly south for the winter on North American migration pathways. The Onion jokingly predicts the government's response.
posted by salvia (23 comments total)

 
it's a remote possibility

The transmission of avian H5N1 virus in humans is a perfect case in point; despite numerous avian-to-human spillover infections, to date there is no compelling evidence of secondary, sustained human-to-human transmission, the crucial step in establishing a full-blown epidemic. This pattern of repeated exposure without large-scale transmission seems particularly typical of arthropod-borne RNA viruses ("arboviruses"), which are a common cause of spillover infections but rarely fully adapt to new host transmission cycles.
posted by Substrata at 1:52 PM on April 9, 2006


I love that the Kansas paper reporting this is called the Wichita Eagle.

Oh, and this is my first front-page post ever. So, if you have to make NewsFilter jabs, at least go a little easy, please?
posted by salvia at 1:55 PM on April 9, 2006


Avian flu is the killer bees knees of fear mongering.
posted by furtive at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2006


and what i forgot to mention in the frst comment

Scientists have been unable to link the spread of the virus to migratory patterns, suggesting that the thousands of wild birds that have died, primarily waterfowl and shore birds, are not primary transmitters of bird flu.

If that holds true, it would suggest that shipments of domestic chickens, ducks and other poultry represents a far greater threat than does the movement of wild birds on the wing.

It also would underscore the need to pursue the virus in poultry farms and markets rather than in wild populations of birds if a possible pandemic is to be checked, U.S. and European experts said.

posted by Substrata at 2:00 PM on April 9, 2006


From the Ohio link:

Wright State University biologist Thomas Van’t Hof said there is a lot of evidence that wild birds are spreading the H5N1 virus.

The virus has been detected in swans and other wild birds in Europe. It is being spread in a pattern that follows wild-bird migrations, especially along a major central Asian flyway. Van’t Hof said birds probably picked up the virus in Turkey and carried it south to Africa.

posted by salvia at 2:06 PM on April 9, 2006


In the UK this week, they found a dead swan in Scotland and proceeded to make it a 15 minute long feature of the daily news about how the Bird Flu outbreak had arrived. They even had a helpline number on the bottom of the screen for people to call should they feel the onset of panic.
posted by Acey at 2:07 PM on April 9, 2006


If that holds true, it would suggest that shipments of domestic chickens, ducks and other poultry represents a far greater threat than does the movement of wild birds on the wing.

And domestic flocks have been infected with Exotic Newcastle Disease by gamecocks which have been smuggled across international borders and through quarantine areas in past years. The cockfighting industry is huge in many areas of the US and it wouldn't surprise me if that doesn't figure into the spread of H5N1 once it arrives here.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:18 PM on April 9, 2006


Would it just please fucking hurry up and get here? I'm sick of hearing about how children and the elderly are going to die without them actually doing it. This is such a tease-- the local news has been promising that my grocery shopping is about to get a lot faster and a lot quieter for about two years, but there are still an awful lot of glacial old people and horrible loud children.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:24 PM on April 9, 2006


In Germany they just "culled" 23,000 poultry from 90 farms after a flu outbreak among chickens. Are we about to experience peak poultry? ;)

Thank goodness the UN asked countries to stop killing wild birds.
posted by salvia at 2:25 PM on April 9, 2006


I, for one, like newsfilter posts. So there. ;)
posted by Hildegarde at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2006


picked up the virus in Turkey and carried it south to Africa.

there is no evidence of h5n1 in africa spread by migratory patterns, only in commercial poultry farms
posted by Substrata at 2:43 PM on April 9, 2006


"this is my first front-page post ever"

A sign of weakness! Quickly Robin, to the snark-mobile!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:46 PM on April 9, 2006


There seems to be a lot of evidence that bird flu when caught by humans (which has actually happened a fair bit over the last two years) doesn't actually transmit easily person-to-person. I have read that this is because of the virus's location in the deeper part of the lungs. Very close contact between humans can spread the virus but it isn't as easily spread as the common seasonal viruses. I predict that a mass pandemic isn't at a our door step. In part this prediction is based on the fact that is hasn't happened yet -- it should have it is was an easy thing to do. From my understanding of the situation, there currently is no evolutionary pressure for the virus to mutate into a form that is more virulent to humans, although just in case it makes sense to maintain vigilence in ensuring that it does not remain over the long-term in close proximity to animals / livestock that could act as human proxies for the virus's evolution.
posted by bhouston at 2:56 PM on April 9, 2006


IANA avian epidemiologist or anything, so Substrata, you may be right here.

But news outlets and official international bodies do seem to think migration is a factor. The World Health Organization fact sheet thinks the importance of migrating birds as a vector is just now being understood:

During 2005, an additional and significant source of international spread of the virus in birds became apparent for the first time, but remains poorly understood. Scientists are increasingly convinced...... Should this new role of migratory birds be scientifically confirmed, it will mark a change in a long-standing stable relationship between the H5N1 virus and its natural wild-bird reservoir.

Evidence supporting this altered role began to emerge in mid-2005 and has since been strengthened.

posted by salvia at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2006


Hildegarde, thanks.

mr_crash_davis, I did wonder about just that. :)
posted by salvia at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2006


From my understanding of the situation, there currently is no evolutionary pressure for the virus to mutate into a form that is more virulent to humans

But as you've mentioned, the problem isn't the virulence of the virus (well, I guess that's the ultimate problem), but its relatively poor skills at being passed from human to human. There's certainly an evolutionary advantage to becoming more contagious, and that's what's feared may happen. All it takes is one lucky virion...
posted by greatgefilte at 3:10 PM on April 9, 2006




From the Kansas article:

Raytheon is planning how it can keep building planes if the disease sickens many of its workers and a quarantine is put in place.

In case we need to bomb the terrorists responsible for the bird flu outbreak? ;)
posted by salvia at 3:41 PM on April 9, 2006


Africanized killer bees knees?
posted by fire&wings at 5:08 PM on April 9, 2006


Great post title, btw.
posted by Malor at 7:00 PM on April 9, 2006


Malor, I agree. Which I can say because someone else came up with it. :)
posted by salvia at 9:06 PM on April 9, 2006


guess restoring those wetlands wasn't such a good idea...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:02 PM on April 9, 2006


A friend works in a European city directing a study abroad program for an American university. They have had a meeting with the American embassy there where they were told if there is a bad outbreak of avian flu they are on their own. Which means the embassy will not help their own citizens stuck abroad. Embassy workers will most likely evacuate before a quarantine.
posted by JJ86 at 7:50 AM on April 10, 2006


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