Friday, September 4, 2009

Is Human H1N1 Swine Flu Contagious to Birds?

Are Our Birds At Risk?

With school back in full swing the number of human cases of H1N1 Swine Flu continues to climb rapidly. With so many people becoming ill, have you ever wondered about your birds catching H1N1 Swine Flu from people?

As a general rule, influenza viruses are species specific meaning that they are usually contagious within one species and do not readily effect another species without considerable genetic modification. With this said, the initial impression is that most human influenza viruses being species specific would not pose a threat to our birds.

Bacteria self replicate and their usual modifications are primarily to develop resistance to antibiotics. Viruses, however, replicate by invading a cell and causing the invaded cell to make more virus. Virus intracellular replication provides more opportunity for genetic modification.

The question becomes even more gray when you consider H1N1 already contains genetic material from not only humans but also pigs and avian flu viruses making the risk of bird infection with this virus although still unlikely is theoretically greater than with other influenza viruses.

Until last May the risk to our birds seemed very remote, but then a herd of pigs in Canada caught the virus from an infected farmer after he develop the disease upon returning from his trip to Mexico. But without avian cases, the risk of our birds getting H1N1 from us, remains highly unlikely.

So keep a level head and the facts in prospective, although the risk to our birds from the current virus is not totally out of the question, it remains highly unlikely and to date no reports of H1N1 in birds has occurred.

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