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Birds of all feathers and global flu diversity
Date:3/6/2014

veillance methods utilized by scientists from around the world," said study lead and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Associate Director of Wildlife Epidemiology, Dr. Sarah Olson.

Understanding the natural diversity of viruses is critically important to identifying health risks. But authorities face a challenge, both in focusing efforts in the right places, and adequately financing surveillance to describe global flu diversity. To address this, the authors introduced a new method, which borrows on approaches used by ecologists, to estimate the diversity of flu viruses in a particular location. With this approach, health authorities can design surveillance programs to detect a given percentage of flu virus diversity.

The scientists also looked at patterns of flu diversity in different bird hosts. Mallards carry the highest number of strains at 89 and ruddy turnstones were second with 45. The more a strain was shared across wild bird types, the more likely it was to be found in domestic birds, a risk factor for spillover events. They also noted that some strains could be specific to certain bird types. For example, gulls and shorebirds (Charadriiformes) carried ten strains that have not been identified in any other bird order.

According to Dr. Olson, "This inventory isn't about blaming wild birds, but it allows us to map what we know, and informs our understanding of what drives viral diversity and the emergence of rare viral strains that can infect people. Given that flu viruses can jump from domestic poultry to people, ongoing efforts at improving biosecurity at poultry farms and markets remain key to outbreak prevention."


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Contact: Scott Smith
ssmith@wcs.org
718-220-3698
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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