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January 18, 2010

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H5N1 linked to bird migration

CHINESE and Asian scientists have discovered that the bird flu outbreak was closely related to bird migration.

The discovery was revealed at the fifth regional meeting of the Asian Partnership on Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, which concluded on Saturday in Kunming, capital of southwestern China's Yunnan Province.

Lei Fumin, researcher at the Institute of Zoology with Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the research team had studied avian influenza outbreaks along bird migration routes in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The research team consisted of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian and Chinese scientists.

Studies showed avian influenza outbreaks in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau frequently coincided with bird migration both in time and location.

Studies on different species of migratory birds that can carry the H5N1 influenza virus showed lakes and wetlands along migration routes were key zones for the influenza viruses, Lei said.

The study showed the role of wild birds in the transmission of avian influenza should be followed closely, said Dr Witthawat Wiriyarat from Thailand, who joined the research team.

He proposed forming a regional surveillance network to monitor avian influenza viruses in migratory birds.

Large numbers of migratory birds were found around some lakes in the plateau in 2005, which drew scientists' attention to the studies on their migration.

"Migratory birds can constantly adapt and become immune to influenza viruses," said Lei. "That has led to a decreasing infection ratio among them.

"If we could strengthen monitoring and prevent contact between poultry and wild migratory birds, the chance of them getting infected by the birds will decrease."

With support from the APEIR, the research team will continue studying the relationship between the avian influenza outbreak and migratory birds, Lei said.

The APEIR was initiated by Canada's International Development Research Center in 2005 to promote regional research collaboration on H5N1 bird flu.


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