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Raccoons discovered with bird flu antibodies

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Ten wild raccoons have been found with signs of previous H5N1 bird flu infections, according to a joint study by Tokyo University and Yamaguchi University.

This is the first time mammals in Japan have been found with bird flu virus antibodies, which develop as a result of infection. Before the discovery, only birds had been found with bird flu antibodies.

The team of researchers warn that infected raccoons could introduce the virus into chicken farms and noted that countermeasures were needed.

The research team collected and examined blood from 988 raccoons captured since 2005. In the blood of 10 raccoons from 3 of the locations, the team found antibodies that had developed after past H5N1 infections. In 2 of the 3 places, not even birds had been found with the antibodies before this time.

The researchers think the 10 raccoons likely were not infected by other raccoons, but by eating the carcasses of infected birds or inheriting the antibodies from a parent at birth.

Source: Daily Yomiuri Online

by Natalie Berkhout

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