Pakistan: H5N1 Found in Dead Crows

Crows are an interesting bird.  I admit, since reading, and then watching, Stephen King’s The Stand I have a rather visceral reaction to the sight of crows, especially a lone crow. Mar 22, 2007

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in dead crows in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, agriculture authorities said.

Up to 70 dead crows had been found in and around the capital recently and eight samples taken from a public park and the outskirts of the city.

Two of them tested positive for the H5N1 strain on Wednesday, said Mohammad Afzal, livestock commissioner at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

"We are telling people that if they find any dead bird on the street they should handle it with care," Afzal said.

Pakistan first found the H5N1 strain of the virus in February last year in North West Frontier Province and about 40,000 birds were culled.

Several outbreaks have been detected in chickens in small poultry farms this year and birds have been culled.

Authorities temporarily shut Islamabad Zoo last month after four peacocks and a goose died of the H5N1 strain. Pakistan has had no human cases of the virus.

Since 2003, the H5N1 virus has killed at least 169 people around the globe and experts fear it could mutate into a form that could jump easily between people and cause a pandemic.


One of the things that make crows interesting with respect to H5N1 is that they are an omnivore.  This from

Being omnivorous, their diet consists of almost anything: seeds, fruits, nuts, insects, mollusks, earthworms, eggs, nestlings, frogs, mice, garbage and carrion. They are attracted to garbage dumps and have a well-known fondness for melons and corn.

Given that there is reasonable speculation that the mice, garbage and carrion could all be vectors for H5N1 any, or all of them, could be the reason for the crows being infected and none of them would be good.  While it would be easy to assume that they picked up the infection because of migrating water fowl, it is well past time that environmental vectors are looked at.

The Bernard Matthews fiasco in England drew attention to the fact that turkey processing bi-products potentially infected with H5N1 were found in open piles.  Not wanting to be too politically incorrect here, but if it can happen in a modern poultry production facility in England it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to envision it happening in Pakistan as well.  Crows would be a safe bet for spreading infection out into the local environment from an infected domestic flock.

In other words, H5N1 positive crows easily points to a problem that is endemic and quite possibly out of control, and far more problematic than if it were strictly backyard poultry.


SZ (finding yet another reason to dislike crows, even if they are highly intelligent)

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