EU to expand AI monitoring in Asia, Africa

13-10-2006 | |
EU to expand AI monitoring in Asia, Africa

The European Union will expand monitoring of wild birds during migration seasons to help protect the region against the potential spread of bird flu.

Albert Osterhaus, professor of Erasmus University in the Netherlands and chairman of the European scientific working group on influenza, will lead a project to monitor countries in Africa and Asia, investigating migratory bird flight routes into Europe.
“The EU has had quite a wide screening programme running for years already but we are going to increase that to screen migratory birds during the season both in Europe and at places where the birds migrate to Europe like Asia and Africa,” Osterhaus said.
“Many European countries, which lie on migratory bird routes will participate,” he said.
The new project, which will be funded by the EU, is in the final stage of negotiations and would soon be implemented, he said. It will involve ornithologists, virologists and data managers.
Europe is on alert to protect poultry from bird flu this autumn as billions of birds are beginning their seasonal migration to African wintering grounds, raising fears the H5N1 strain could return to Europe.
Migration routes are complex but can take wildfowl from Asia to Russia where they come into contact with others that then fly south across eastern and central Europe to Africa.
Scientists have suggested that migratory birds play an important role in the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus, which originated in Asia and has killed 148 people worldwide so far.
They fear that H5N1 could mutate into a form easily spread between humans, sparking a worldwide pandemic and killing millions of people.