Monday, December 4, 2006

Study: U.S. government has looked in wrong place for bird flu

The Associated Press Published: December 3, 2006

WASHINGTON: Birds migrating from Latin America not from northeastern Asia or Alaska — are the most likely way deadly bird flu would reach the United States, researchers said Monday.

The finding, included in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates the government might miss the arrival of the deadly H5N1 virus because biologists have been looking in the wrong direction.

U.S. bird flu surveillance has focused heavily on migratory birds flying from Asia to Alaska, where researchers this year collected tens of thousands of samples from wild birds nesting on frozen tundra before making their way south.

Those birds present a much lower risk than migratory birds that make their way from South America through Central America and Mexico, where controls on imported poultry are not as tough as in the United States and Canada...

The study found that:

- Bird flu was spread through Asia by the poultry trade.

- Most of the spread throughout Europe was from migratory birds.

- Bird flu spread into Africa from migratory birds as well as poultry trade.

U.S. officials cautioned that the study is not the final authority on the spread and prevention of bird flu.

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