The long winter flu season has passed and trees, bushes and flowers are budding out and you know that spring is in the air.Â A joyful time of listening to songbirds sing their melodious songs.Â It has always been a highlight in my life each year.Â Â But is that all about to change?
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Scientists have discovered that 22 species of passerinesâ€“songbirds and perching birdsâ€“in the contiguous U.S. are carriers of low-pathogenicity avian influenza. Pathogenicity is the ability of a germ to produce an infectious disease in an organism.
The researchers report their results in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
The research is supported by the joint National Institutes of Health (NIH)-National Science Foundation (NSF) Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID) Program. At NSF, EID is co-funded by the Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences.
The prevalence of influenza in waterfowl has long been known.
But the researchersâ€™ analysis of samples taken from 225 passerine species in 41 U.S. states indicates that the number of songbird species with low-pathogenicity avian influenza is greater than the number in eight other avian orders, including waterfowl.
â€œAvian influenza virus [AIV] is an important public health issue because pandemic influenza viruses in people have contained genes from viruses that infect birds,â€ says Trevon Fuller, lead author of the paper and a biologist at the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA.
â€œSome AIV subtypes have periodically mutated from low pathogenicity to high pathogenicity forms that are lethal, for example, to poultry.â€
Since passerines share the same habitat as poultry, they may be more effective transmitters of this disease than aquatic birds to humans, Fuller says.
From the trenches,