Monitoring Wild Birds' Migration Routes Could Provide Early Warning Of Potential Bird Flu Outbreaks

First Posted: Oct 18, 2016 05:00 AM EDT

In the past, several animals contributed to the spread of disease worldwide. Now, bird flu outbreaks in certain parts of the globe have been posing a threat to the lives of many individuals. Experts claim that in order to give early warning of a possible bird flu outbreak, it is best to monitor the route of migration of wild birds.

According to Medical News Today, the said recommendation followed after a new research showed that migrating birds can help spread fatal strains of avian flu worldwide. Reports said that some strains of viruses causing bird flu are extremely deadly in infected birds and can pose a major threat to bird farms around the world. In some unique cases, the viruses can also spread in humans and cause life-threatening sickness.

Lead author Dr. Samantha Lycett from the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, said: "Bird flu is a major threat to the health and wellbeing of farmed chickens worldwide. Our findings show that with good surveillance, rapid data sharing, and collaboration, we can track how infections spread across continents."

Another author connected to the study, Professor Mark Woolhouse, also from the University of Edinburgh, said: "This study could only have happened through bird flu researchers around the world pooling resources and working together. We see this as a model for how scientists should unite to combat infectious diseases of all kinds."

Experts have investigated how a bird flu subtype called H5N8 crossed borders and spread around the world after outbreaks in South Korea that started in early 2014. The said virus spread to Japan, North America, and Europe, which caused the outbreaks in birds in the regions between autumn 2014 and spring 2015.

Analysis showed that the migration patterns of wild birds caused them to be infected with H5N8 virus. The team then compared the genetic code of viruses which they have isolated from infected birds from 16 different countries, reported Science Daily. Their findings showed that H5N8 was possibly carried by long-distance flights of infected migrating wild birds from Asia to Europe and North America through their breeding grounds in the Arctic region.

Researchers also said that their findings stressed the importance of strictly maintaining areas around poultry farms and make sure that wild birds can't join in. reported researchers saying that greater surveillance of wild birds at known breeding areas is needed to help provide early warning of threats of specific flu virus strains to birds and people.

They also said that deadly bird flu strains, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), can kill up to 100 percent of birds they infect within just a few days. The study, published in the journal Science, was conducted by the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses and involved scientists from 32 institutions worldwide.

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