A story today out of Thailand that blames gulls, not storks, for introducing bird flu to that nation and possibly spreading it across south east Asia.
Using satellite telemetry, researchers have detailed the the complete migratory routes of the brown headed gull (Larus brunnicephalus), which summers in central Asia and winters on the tropical coast and inland lakes of southern Asia.
They’ve also detected the H5N1 virus in some small percentage of these migrating gulls, leading them to believe that it is the brown headed gull that has spread the virus to Thailand.
First a link to the news report, then some follow up.
By Pongphon Sarnsamak
Published on September 3, 2010
A study has found that the bird that carried the influenza virus H5N1 into Thailand was a gull, not the openbill stork.
Those with good memories may recall that last June I ran a report on H5N1 Bird Deaths In Tibet. The China Tibet Information Center cited the deaths of 171 wild bird from around Naqu Lake, and listed the species as:
- 141 brown-headed gulls
- 27 bare-headed geese
- 1 chough
- 1 wigeon
And if we go back to 2007, during a time when H5N1 was making inroads into Western Europe, one of the concerns mentioned was the Black Headed Gull, as I wrote of in UK Vet Warns Of Migratory Bird Threat.
The whole migratory-birds-spreading-H5N1 issue is a contentious one, with some groups defending wild birds and pointing their fingers at poultry producers and smuggling.
The poultry industry generally cries fowl (sorry), and blames wild birds instead.
As a dispassionate observer, without a bird in this fight, I can see how both contribute to the spread of the virus. Which I suspect makes me not very popular in either camp.
Up until now, gulls have been a low profile suspect in the spread of bird flu. Now, with this new study, they may need to come under more scrutiny.