"Poultry Flu" is Birds Korea's preferred popular name for "bird flu", Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Type A H5N1). It is a disease primarily of poultry, and a product of the unhygienic and inhumane conditions found in the poultry industry.
There is as yet NO clear evidence that wild birds are spreading Poultry Flu significantly beyond the immediate area of their infection; there is abundant evidence that Poultry Flu is spread over significant distance through the transport of poultry (chicken, domesticated duck, turkey), and through other human activities.
Up to the present, the outbreaks of Poultry Flu do not match the movements of migrant birds, either in timing or in distribution (contrary to the claims of some prominent non-specialists); no wild bird species can be identified that link sites and dates of outbreaks.
However, some wild birds can contract Poultry Flu, and it can kill them: they can be victims of it.
Even if wild birds are eventually proven as vectors in one or more outbreaks of Poultry Flu, it is clear that the eradication of flocks of migrant birds, while difficult to achieve, and in many cases illegal (and immoral), would not solve the problem. This is because the virus is already widespread among poultry flocks.
The most efficient means to restrict the spread of this virus is to impose and enforce much stricter controls on the poultry (and caged bird) industry. These controls pertain to both the conditions in which chickens and ducks etc are reared and kept; and in the way in which they are transported.
In addition, very much greater effort needs to be made to keep Poultry Flu from contaminating areas used by wild birds and people.
It is clear that Poultry Flu is a complex issue. For all aspects to be understood, and for the further spread of the disease to be prevented, there needs to be a much greater pooling of information from specialists in a number of fields - including not only medicine but also ornithology, ecology, biosecurity and the poultry industry. Considering recent outbreaks, and the increasing hysteria which has led to a recent comparison of migrant birds with "intercontintental ballistic missiles", ornithologists and bird conservationists need urgently to contribute their expert knowledge - especially on bird migration routes in Asia. Birds Korea also urges other concerned persons, including decision-makers, to communicate openly about H5N1, and to remain responsive to information on wild birds and their migrations. It urges responsible reporting and discussion, and reaffirms its intent to provide advice and information openly and honestly.
Director, Birds Korea