FAO says human activities, not wild birds, spread H5N1
The UN’s Food and Agriculture organisation says it is unreasonable to blame wild birds as the source of H5N1, in the absence of rigorous research into their role in the ecology and dynamics of the virus. (Avian flu: Don't place all the blame on wild birds, 22 May 2006)
"It is indeed likely that (wild birds) can introduce the disease to unaffected areas from countries in which the disease has already been identified," the FAO’s statement asserts, "But the disease is spread through the human activities of poultry production, improper hygiene and uncontrolled commercialisation."
The 'simple fact', the FAO says, is that more research is needed to understand wild bird migration and the vulnerability of different species, in order to perform proper risk assessments, and recommend risk mitigation measures where required.
But they add: "Surveillance for avian influenza viruses and the presence of the HPAI H5N1 virus in wildlife can be given priority only once adequate surveillance of the poultry sector is in place, since poultry are more likely to transmit infection to humans and other susceptible animals. To devote resources to monitoring wild birds rather than take stock of production practices and improving such practices would not be justified."
FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are organising an international scientific conference on avian influenza and wild birds in Rome from 30-31 May, to try to understand better the role of wild birds in the transmission of avian flu. Representatives of BirdLife will attend.