Avian influenza and wild birds - a hot topic

A research paper which highlighted the fact that Australia’s preparedness for avian influenza must consider the role of wild birds in an Australian context has attracted top billing from the scientific community.

Lead author, NSW Department of Primary Industries vertebrate pest researcher John Tracey, said most Australian ducks and geese - unlike their counterparts in the northern hemisphere - are not migratory and their movements are mainly restricted to within the Australian New Guinea region.

Gaps in research knowledge about wild bird ecology were highlighted in an article titled The role of wild birds in the transmission of avian influenza for Australia: an ecological perspective.

This was named as the most linked-to paper in the entire CSIRO collection in March this year by a CSIRO tracking system which records the number of times people follow links from one paper to another.

This means the article is being heavily used by the scientific community and is likely to be cited in other papers.

The article first appeared in the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union journal Emu (2004, 104, 109-124).

Mr Tracey is currently coordinating the collection of data to fill research gaps relating to wild bird ecology and the transmission of avian influenza in Australia.

He said that since 2004, the Federal and State Governments have stepped up surveillance of avian influenza in Australia’s wild birds.

“Swabs and samples have been collected from some 7000 wild birds since 2004 and over 3000 have undergone testing for avian influenza virus.

“The majority of samples were collected from shorebirds, with a quarter from ducks and magpie geese and a smaller number of shearwaters and other species.

“All samples tested negative to H5 and H7 subtypes of the virus.”