Don't blame wild birds for AI spread: UN

United Nations officials have told attendees at a conference in China that improper poultry raising and sales techniques - rather than migratory birds - play the most important role in the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, according to the Xinhua news agency.

UN official Dr Vincent Martin, of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said the spread of bird flu is mainly because the world's increased demand for protein has led to the rapid and unregulated development of animal production.
Martin, who was speaking at an international conference in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, said that centuries-old practices are still being used in highly concentrated domestic poultry production systems in Asia.
Meanwhile, the constantly evolving nature of the virus has provided the ideal conditions for the emergence of new strains of avian influenza - such as the Fujian-like strain that was discovered recently in China.
Martin said that the main causes of the deadly disease are the trade in poultry and poultry products, while evidence indicates that wild migratory birds play a minor role in the long-distance spread of the virus.
Marco Barbieri, executive secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species of the UN Environmental Program, said that despite media attention the spread of bird flu is not widely understood, with misinformation leading to the common belief that wild birds are mainly to blame.
"This creates political pressure for ill-advised and disproportionate policies such as the culling or harassment of wild birds and the destruction of wetland habitats," Barbieri said.
"We need to present an accurate and balanced view which acknowledges that there are a number of factors whose relative importance can change, depending on the area or outbreak concerned," he said.

Editor WorldPoultry

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