Experts blame both wild birds and poultry trade for spreading bird flu
Experts at an H5N1 conference in Rome have agreed that a cloud of
mystery hangs over the spread of bird flu, but they say that both migratory
birds and poultry trading - legal and illegal - are likely to be to
More than 300 experts and scientists attended the conference, which was
organised by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World
Animal Health Organisation (OIE).
Jospeh Domenech, the FAO's chief
veterinary officer said that more research needed to be undertaken to more
accurately determine the role that wild birds play in spreading the virus. "Do
we have a permanent reservoir in wild birds or not? It still remains a question.
We have identified the gaps and the need to continue and intensify research, in
particular with regards to the species which can be involved," he
Domenech's message was that wild birds are not the only factors
to blame, and that his organisation does not support killing wild birds. "If
wild birds have a role, the only answer is to monitor them," he
Many have pointed the finger at migratory birds for the spread
of H5N1, but some have blamed the poultry industry for virus's spread. One such
person is William Karesh, of New York's Wildlife Conservation Society. "We still
don't understand this movement of wildlife. We have good records for legal
trade, but that's only a bit of what's going on and it's probably not where the
problems are. Focusing efforts at markets to regulate, reduce, or, in some
cases, eliminate the trade in wildlife could provide a cost- effective approach
to decrease the risks in disease for humans, domestic animals and wildlife," he
Domenech also agreed that bird trade needed closer monitoring.
"We have to focus on this issue of trade because it's the most frequent way if
spreading disease from one region to another. We're talking about illegal trade
here as well, which is much more difficult to regulate. This includes legal and
illegal trade in wild birds which is quite significant and often ignored," he
Robert Webster, an American avian flu expert from St Jude
Children's Research Hospital, believes that both wild birds and humans for the
havoc wreaked by the virus. "In this outbreak of H5N1, it's a combination. There
is no doubt that the wild birds play their role, but so do humans. People
acknowledge that probably the most important spreader of influenza overall is
the â€¦ globalisation of trade," he said.
Domenech said that greater
cooperation between different agencies and fields related to poultry and birds
was required to understand the disease and find ways to prevent it from becoming
a pandemic. "We need more coordination to bring together all the information in
order to better understand and solve the puzzle," he said.
To comment, login here
Or register to be able to comment.