A recent spate of strange bird deaths have increased worries about the possible pandemic of bird flu. On January 8, police in Austin Texas shut down a central area of the city after dozens of birds were found dead in the streets. The dead birds were pigeons, sparrows and grackles, which all are birds known to be affected by the bird flu virus, although there is no sign that this is what caused the bird deaths. No dangerous gas leaks or poisons were detected.

It?s the flu season right now, and widespread use of the antiviral Tamiflu, which is effective against they symptoms of regular flu as well as bird flu, could actually lead to the development of what public health officials hope to avoid??drug-resistant strains of the virus in wild birds. British researchers have shown that Tamiflu?s persistence in wastewater and river water could affect the waterfowl that drink from those sources. The Tamiflu in the water would come from the urine of people who are taking the drug and would not be removed from the water by conventional water treatment methods.

Since the World Health Organization’s first warning of an avian flu pandemic two years ago, nations worldwide have been stockpiling Tamiflu for treatment and outbreak prevention. The drug, which minimizes flu symptoms and duration, inhibits the movement of the influenza virus from the cells it infects, and also helps uninfected people avoid contracting the flu. However, Tamiflu?s active agent would be excreted into sewers for several weeks during a pandemic and is expected to withstand biodegradation. According to the researchers in the current study, once birds drink Tamiflu-laced water from catchments receiving treated wastewater, they could produce Tamiflu-resistant strains and pass them on to other birds who share the same waters. They could then pass them on to human beings who come into contact with them.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

Sleuthing for the cause behind these bird deaths will definitely need to take the ripple effect into account?as well as the way our world really works (which is not the way most of us think it does!) Support us in this important mission! History will thank you.

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