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Bird ‘flu: not the only flying hazard

04.11.2005


Our view of wild birds is mostly positive. They are a lovely sight as they soar through the air or drift lazily on updrafts. But there is a downside to this beauty. Birds are reservoirs for all manner of infectious disease and we can do little about it, according to an article in the November 2005 issue of Microbiology Today, the quarterly magazine of the Society for General Microbiology.



“Wild birds carry several important human and animal diseases,” explains Dr Keith Jones of Lancaster University. The most notorious of these is bird ‘flu, but the list also includes other influenza viruses, West Nile Virus, psittacosis and Lyme disease. “We have also discovered that gulls can carry E. coli O157.”

Not only do these animals carry many harmful microbes, but because of migration patterns they are also responsible for the worldwide spread of the diseases.


“If we can prevent wild birds from mixing with poultry it should make a difference,” explains Dr Jones. “Stopping the spread of diseases such as avian ‘flu to farmed birds would avoid huge economic losses, and at worst, loss of human lives.”

“Greater bio-security on farms could also prevent the spread of food poisoning bacteria amongst livestock and the direct contamination of salads with pathogens in bird droppings,” says Dr Jones.

Dr Jones also believes that cleaning up contaminated outdoor eating areas and not feeding wild birds will help to prevent cases of food poisoning. “These studies show that it is not just because of bird ‘flu that we should be wary of contact with wild birds and their faeces,” says Dr Jones.

Air surrounds us and we breathe in all that it contains every day — gases, dust particles and microbes. This issue of Microbiology Today looks at the microbes in our air, from how they get there and survive to how they move from around the globe.

Other features in the November 2005 issue of Microbiology Today include:

· Microbes in the air: John Tyndall and the spontaneous generation debate (page 164)
· Microbes and climate (page 168)
· Microbe-laden aerosols (page 172)
· Clouds of desert dust and microbiology: a mechanism of global dispersion (page 180)
· Comment: Clostridium difficile (page 204)

These are just some of the articles that appear, together with all the regular features and reports of Society activities.

Faye Jones | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sgm.ac.uk

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