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How seasons affect spread of avian influenza in migrating ducks

Cara J

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The spread of avian influenza viruses in dabbling ducks has a lot to do with the life cycle of the migrating birds as well as the season, according to a new study. Most avian influenza viruses originate in wild bird species, according to Jonathan Runstadler, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Engineering and the Division of Comparative Medicine at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We believe wild birds are essentially a reservoir for [avian] influenza viruses,” he said. Meixell holds two ducks that he collected from a swim-in trap. ©Brandt Meixell This is especially important to human health within the last 10-15 years with viruses such as H5N1 and H7N9 spilling over from avian hosts to humans. However, wild ducks rarely show clinical signs of the virus, Runstadler says. In fact, when he and his team go out to sample mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), they can’t tell if a bird is infected until they test the sample. Still, despite the absence of visible symptoms, these viral infections could have an impact on the ducks’ reproduction, timing of their migration and various aspects of their fitness. As part of their study published in the journal Ecology Letters, senior author Runstadler and [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/how-seasons-affect-spread-of-avian-influenza-in-migrating-ducks/

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