Pigeons Don't Pose Bird Flu Threat
Pigeons are not immune from the virus. But tests indicate the birds pick it up only when they are exposed to very high doses, do not always become infected under those conditions and are carriers only briefly.
aren't a big worry," said Rex Sohn, a wildlife
disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey's
scientists looking for the first signs of the H5N1 bird flu strain in the
In February, a
14-year-old pigeon seller in
There have been no pigeon die-offs in parts of the world experiencing H5N1 outbreaks, according to USGS wildlife disease specialist Grace McLaughlin.
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since the late 1990s by the Agriculture Department's Southeast Poultry
Research Laboratory in
experiment, researchers squirted into pigeons' mouths liquid drops that
contained the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from a
In 2004, the
lab did two more experiments. Using a pigeon and a crow that had both died in
"What that tells us is that pigeons can be susceptible. But they're not uniformly susceptible," Swayne said. "Not like chickens or ducks — they all become infected."
Infected pigeons carried the virus about 10 days. But they were infectious for only about two days and then at levels below what it would normally take to infect a chicken.
"The experimental data is not very strong that pigeons are going to be spreading this virus around," Swayne said. "At this point they have not been implicated in spreading it to humans and to farms."