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Poor bird flu records hamper tracking efforts

Critical information about the incidence of bird flu in wild birds is being poorly and vaguely reported, hampering scientists' understanding of how the virus spreads, according to the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Authors of an article in the November 2006 issue of BioScience, produced by the AIBS, say that deficiencies in avian influenza data collection “can lead to unwarranted assumptions and conclusions that in turn affect public perceptions, practical control and management measures, and the disposition of resources.”
The authors said that basic information, such as the species of the infected bird, is often recorded inaccurately or not at all.
The article's authors, Maï Yasué, Chris Feare, Leon Bennun, and Wolfgang Fiedler, made use of the Aiwatch (avian influenza watch) e-mail forum to gather information for their article from sources worldwide.
They describe several instances of incorrect and inadequate information being reported, often in relation to details that a crucial for understanding the way the virus spreads, including the birds' sex, age, location, time of discovery, and methods of capture and sampling.
The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been detected in at least 55 countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. The latest World Health Organisation statistics indicate that there have been 256 human cases of the disease, 151 of which have been fatal.
Bird flu is typically studied by veterinarians and virologists. The authors have pleaded for greater involvement by ornithologists and ecologists in H5N1 research and monitoring.

Editor WorldPoultry

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