Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Avian flu may skip winged transportation for road transportation

I recently got turned on to a great new Science blog aggregator.

Grrlscientist at Living the Scientific Life frequently collects and blogs a series of wonderfully clear and interesting essays by scientists, called the Tangled Bank.

In the latest issue (49th), I came across her striking essay on the avian flu propagation pattern.

While she uses a report by GRAIN, an NGO who has a clear beef (pardon the pun) with large scale farming, the arguments are clear, plausible and rather convincing.

An examination of the pattern of avian flu spread was found to poorly match known migratory patterns of wild birds, and could instead be much more easily explained by animal shipments of the commercial poultry industry.

A further examination of some of the salient outbreak points seems to correlate much better with the presence of intensive poultry farms than with any migratory pattern of birds.

Finally the article points out that backyard chicken, free-ranging animals with a much higher genetic diversity than mass-raised chickens, are not likely vectors of the disease.

Go read the entire essay here.

In the meantime I'll wait to see whether this analysis somehow finds it way into Nature or Science.