Europeans detect no avian flu virus in African flocks
Defying the dire predictions of health
officials, the flocks of migratory birds that flew south to Africa last fall,
then back over Europe in recent weeks, did not carry the deadly bird flu virus
or spread it during their annual journey, scientists have
International health officials had feared that the disease was likely to
spread to Africa during the southward migration and return to Europe with a
vengeance during the reverse migration this spring. That has not happened - a
significant finding for Europe, because it is far easier to monitor a virus that
exists domestically on farms but not in the wild.
"It is quiet now in
terms of cases, which is contrary to what many people had expected," said Ward
Hagemeijer, a bird flu specialist with Wetlands International, an environmental
group based in the Netherlands that studies migratory birds.
thousands of samples collected in Africa this winter, the bird flu virus, H5N1,
was not detected in a single wild bird, health officials and scientists said. In
Europe, only a few cases have been detected in wild birds since April 1, at the
height of the migration north.
The number of cases in Europe has
fallen off so steeply compared with February, when dozens of new cases were
found daily, that specialists contend the northward spring migration played no
role. The flu was found in one grebe in Denmark on April 28 -- the last case
discovered -- and a falcon in Germany and a few swans in France, said the Paris
based World Organization for Animal Health.
In response to the good
news, agriculture officials in many European countries are lifting restrictions
designed to protect valuable poultry from infected wild birds.
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