Biologists look in wrong direction for bird flu
Researchers have reported that birds from Latin
America - not from Alaska - are most likely to bring bird flu to the US,
sparking fears that the government might miss the virus because biologists have
been looking in the wrong direction.
Researchers this year have collected tens of thousands of samples from wild
birds nesting on frozen tundra before making their way south, but may have
neglected the migratory birds that make their way north from South America
through Central America and Mexico, where controls on imported poultry are not
as tough as in the US and Canada.
The study concluded that "current American surveillance plans that focus
primarily on the Alaskan migratory bird pathway may fail to detect the
introduction of H5N1 into the United States in time to prevent its spread into
Nations south of the US import hundreds of thousands of chickens a year
from countries where bird flu has turned up in migratory birds or poultry, said
A. Marm Kilpatrick, lead author of the study.
If bird flu arrives in Mexico or somewhere farther south, it could be a
matter of time before a migratory bird carries the virus to the United States,
Kilpatrick said. "We need to be looking both south and north."
More resources have been spent in Alaska than in other states so far, but
testing is happening throughout the lower 48, and the US is even helping Mexico
do surveillance, said Tom DeLiberto, the department's National Wildlife Disease
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