Monday, March 31, 2008

Ducks, Rice and Bird Flu

The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that chicken are not the main agents in the spread of avian influenza in South-East Asia. It's ducks and rice paddies.

Research in Thailand, Vietnam and other countries of the region, the agency says, indicates that the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is spread mostly by ducks flying around post harvest paddy fields in search of left over grain. FAO experts say in a paper published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States that flights of free range ducks have been strongly linked to outbreaks of bird flu. Their findings are based on research in 2004-2005 which used satellites to map the movements of birds and linked them to outbreaks of disease. According to FAO, its experts now have a much better idea of when to expect outbreaks of avian flum and can plan preventive measures. Evolution of the H5M1 virus may also become
easier to predict.

An estimated 90 per cent of the world's 1.044 billion domestic ducks is in Asia, with China and Vietnam accounting for 775 million of the birds. Thailand has some 11 million ducks.

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