Bird flu virus carried by sparrows

27-10-2006 | |

Chinese scientists recently reported that they found the H5N1 bird flu virus in sparrows two years ago, the first time the virus has been detected in the common, non-migratory bird on the Chinese mainland.

Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China tested excrement samples from 38 sparrows after an outbreak of bird flu in a county in Henan Province in 2004. Some of samples tested positive of H5N1 virus, said Li Tianxian, a researcher with the institute.
Working with the Beijing Institute of Zoology, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the scientists isolated four H5N1 strains, which tests showed were a new genotype.
Chinese officials have in the past blamed outbreaks of bird flu in the country on migratory birds, but the findings indicate that the virus could also be among local birds common in urban areas.
The news that non-migratory birds could be a channel for bird flu comes as the US reported earlier this week that common Northern American birds can carry the avian influenza virus.
In late September and early October, China reported two new outbreaks of bird flu in poultry, which killed at least 2,000 domestic fowl in Inner Mongolia and Ningxia Hui. The quarantine imposed on Inner Mongolia where the outbreak occurred was lifted this week.
Zeng Guang, an expert with China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned of the possibility of a major bird flu outbreak in China this winter or next spring, as common flu cases reach their peak.
According to official World Health Organisation statistics, China has had 21 human infections of bird flu since 2003, 14 of which were fatal.