Monday, March 06, 2006

Bird flu: much harder to stop than thought

When you cross industrial agriculture with world trade with migratory birds, you get some unexpected results:
Recent Spread of Bird Flu Confounds Experts - New York Times

... In Croatia, for example, Mr. Kaat said, fertilizer made of manure from infected poultry probably spread A(H5N1). The manure is commonly used to fertilize fish ponds, which are frequent stopover points for migrating birds that probably contracted the virus there, he said. The virus persists in water for weeks.
The NYT article is a lesson in why governments should fund basic research. The economic importance of research into the ecology and migration of birds has increased dramatically in the past few months. We can't go back 10 years and fund the research we need today. This is where the market breaks down, and where government needs to play a role.

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