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Study highlights potential of avian influenza to infect commercial flocks
Migrating birds harbouring weaker viruses are more likely to pass avian flu to domestic flocks.
Migrating birds with weaker virus more likely to pass disease to domestic flocks.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have revealed insights into avian influenza viruses and their potential to infect commercial flocks.  

Scientists found that avian influenza viruses can readily exchange genetic material with other low pathogenic viruses during migration, increasing the chance of a serious outbreak occurring on domestic poultry and wild birds.

Dr Sam Lycett from the Roslin Institute explains: “Bird flu viruses can readily exchange genetic material with other influenza viruses and this, in combination with repeated transmission of viruses between domestic and wild birds, means that a viral strain can emerge and persist in wild bird populations, which carries a high risk of disease for poultry.

“This aids our understanding of how a pathogenic avian flu virus could become established in wild bird populations."

In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analysed the genetic makeup of the 2016/17 avian influenza virus in various birds at key stages during the flu season.

They found that the virus could easily exchange genetic material with other, less harmful viruses, at times and locations corresponding to bird migratory cycle. These included viruses carried by wild birds on intersecting migratory routes, and by farmed ducks in China and central Europe.

The research also revealed that migrating birds harbouring weaker viruses are more likely to survive their journey and potentially pass the disease to domestic birds.

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World Bee Day celebrations begin

News Story 1
 Today (20 May) marks the fifth annual World Bee Day, which raises awareness of the importance of bees and pollinators to people and the planet. Observed on the anniversary of pioneering Slovenian beekeeper Anton Jana's birthday, this year's celebration is themed: 'Bee Engaged: Celebrating the diversity of bees and beekeeping systems'.

Organisations and people celebrating the day will raise awareness of the accelerated decline in pollinator diversity, and highlight the importance of sustainable beekeeping systems and a wide variety of bees. Slovenia, the initiator of World Bee Day, will be focusing on teaching young people about the significance of pollinators. 

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Further avian flu cases confirmed

Three cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 have been confirmed in recent days, bringing the total number of cases in England to 98.

On Thursday, the APHA confirmed two cases of HPAI H5N1 near Redgrave, Mid Suffolk and Market Weston, West Suffolk. A case H5N1 was also confirmed in poultry at a premises near Southwell, Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire.

Protection and surveillance zones are in place around the affected premises. Further details are available at gov.uk