Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-09-Migrating Birds Could Bring Bird Flu To Western Europe From Africa

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-09-Migrating Birds Could Bring Bird Flu To Western Europe From Africa


Ornithologists in Western Europe say there is a slightly higher risk that migrating birds could bring bird flu to Western Europe this spring from Africa. An outbreak of bird flu, H5N1, has occurred in northern Nigeria - the first African country to report this.

The infected farm is close to the path taken by migratory birds that winter in Africa and fly back to Europe in the spring. Most of the birds that take this route are small ones. Smaller birds, such as martins, warblers, swallows and wheateaters, are less likely to make the long trip if they are infected.

Ornithologists say that although the risk is now greater, it is still low. They say small birds are most likely to die before they can get very far.

One e-mailer to Medical News Today asked: ?reg;Not all infections take place at the beginning of a migratory journey. What if a bird becomes infected after completing 300 miles of its journey, and then passes it on to another bird two hundred miles further on, then that one passes it on, etc?'

Others say that the likelihood of bird flu hitting Western Europe is pretty high. Given that the virus managed to travel many more times that distance in less than a year - Viet Nam to Nigeria - hopping over to Spain, and from there spread northwards, will be pretty straightforward. Especially during the spring, when birds travel a lot.

However, most of the spread, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), has been through poultry and the poultry trade. That is why the WHO says it is crucial to have close inspections of poultry trade movements (and exotic birds).

Now that bird flu has arrived in Africa, a massive continent, there is concern it will become very hard to monitor. Africa has many remote villages, villages which are inaccessible by road. Many people in Africa live very close to their livestock, including lots of chickens.

Understanding Avian Influenza