The North Atlantic may be an important pathway for the spread of avian influenza between Europe and North America, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report published yesterday.
USGS and others, including Icelandic scientists, have detected avian flu viruses from North America and Europe in migratory birds in Iceland. The study found that the North Atlantic is as important as the North Pacific in being a melting pot for birds and avian flu.
Many birds from Europe and North America mix in Iceland’s wetlands during migration. Infected birds could transmit avian flu viruses to healthy birds from either location and may lead to the evolution of new viruses, the study found.
While none of the viruses found were harmful to humans, the study findings are considered important for the monitoring of the H5N1 avian influenza that can infect humans. “Iceland is an important location for the study of avian flu and is worthy of special attention and monitoring,” said Robert Dusek, USGS scientist and lead author of the study.
The study was the first to document influenza viruses from both Eurasia and North America at the same location and time.
The USGS’ partners in the study included the Southwest Iceland Nature Research Institute, the University of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Research Centre, the University of Minnesota and the J. Craig Venter Institute.
More information on the study is available on the USGS website.