Science + Technology

Avian flu identified in songbirds

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Ducks and other waterfowl have long been known to be carriers of avian flu. Now, UCLA scientists have found that songbirds and perching birds carry a milder form of bird flu that has the potential to spread to other animals and humans.
 
"Avian influenza virus (AIV) is an important public health issue because pandemic influenza viruses in people have contained genes from viruses that infect birds," said Trevon Fuller, a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Institute of the Environment's Center for Tropical Research.
 
Fuller, a biologist, is the lead author of a paper on U.S. wild birds and avian flu published recently in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
 
Researchers tested more than 13,000 birds from 225 different species in 41 continental states. They found low-pathogenic avian influenza in 22 species of songbirds and perching birds, including sparrows, finches and thrushes. That is greater than the number found in eight other avian orders, including waterfowl.
 
The research was supported by the Ecology of Infectious Diseases Program, a joint initiative of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The funding was received by the UCLA Department of Biology and Evolutionary Ecology, and the research was overseen by Professor Thomas Smith, director of the Center for Tropical Research.
 
Additional details are available in a National Science Foundation news release.
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