Avian Influenza

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Children, Young People and Families)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the scientific evidence is that avian influenza can survive in birds for longer than six hours.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

Although there has been some research into avian influenza virus survivability, most of this relates to the survival of virus in the environment. Therefore, we cannot give a definite answer as to how long the virus can remain in bird carcasses. Much depends upon the strain of virus, the host and environmental factors.

However, there is evidence to support the fact that avian influenza virus can survive longer than six hours in live birds. The incubation period for this disease (infection to the onset of illness) is typically three to five days and the virus can be isolated during the clinical phase of the disease. In some instances it may be longer.

Some species of birds (for example, waterfowl) can become infected but not show clinical signs of the disease, even when infected with the highly pathogenic strains. Many species of bird can become infected with the low pathogenic strains and show little evidence of being ill but are still infectious to other birds for some time.

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