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Daily Snack Top News
Call for better bird surveillance
13/06/06
Britain's fight against a possible bird flu outbreak needs a more "robust and systematic" wild bird surveillance programme, an independent report has said.

The Government also needs to improve the speed of initial reporting of disease and submission of samples for testing, stated the study by the Science Advisory Council's subgroup on epidemic diseases (SAC-ED).

H5N1 bird flu - which is not yet pandemic flu because it does not move easily between people - has infected more than 200 people and killed over 110 worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

Professor Andrew Easton, a virologist who sits on SAC-ED as a co-opted expert, called on Defra to increase the extent of its surveillance.

The scientist said: "The committee felt the surveillance of wild birds should be continued."

Prof Easton, based at the University of Warwick, added: "The way in which it is carried out should be much more systematic, rather then methods used at the moment. The Government should take some informed decisions about the nature of the surveillance - where it would be carried out and indeed when.

"All of those factors come into play when you're trying to identify the potential for the introduction of a virus."

The report noted that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had three parts to its UK wild bird survey: looking at flocks that had been either shot, caught live or their carcasses found following unusually high deaths.

Prof Easton said examining dead birds was looking at the situation after the event, shooting them restricted the survey to certain species and examining infected birds which had been caught meant almost nothing was known of their history.

The UK has had some recent experience of outbreaks of avian flu. In April a poultry worker at a Norfolk farm contracted the H7 strain of the avian virus in the form of conjunctivitis. The outbreak led to tens of thousands of chickens being slaughtered.
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