News update:May 12, 2010

No avian flu in mysterious Australia bird deaths

Around 5,000 birds have been found dead in Esperance, Western Australia , since mid-December, according to Nigel Higgs, spokesman for the state's Department of Environment and Conservation.

Wildlife authorities investigating why thousands of birds fell from the sky over a town in remote southwestern Australia have ruled out infectious diseases but are no closer to figuring out what killed them.

"It may be an environmental toxin. It may be an agricultural or industrial toxin. We just can't be specific," Higgs said.

The birds were mostly nectar- and insect-eating species, although some seagulls also have been found, according to Higgs. Pathologists at the Western Australia Department of Agriculture examined several of the carcasses, and have ruled out the virulent H5N1 bird flu virus and other infectious diseases.

Further tests were being done on the dead birds, and Higgs said that it would be at least another week before pathologists have any more information on the mysterious deaths. Meanwhile, the reports of dead birds were waning, he said.




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