Beware the Starlings: Common birds can carry avian influenza | Science News

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Beware the Starlings: Common birds can carry avian influenza

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11:40am, October 17, 2007

Starlings, introduced into North America from Europe in the 19th century, have become a widespread nuisance. And they just got more annoying: It turns out they're good at carrying bird flu.

During the past two winters, common songbirds in Hong Kong "have been dropping dead out of the sky," says Robert Webster, an infectious-diseases specialist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Some of those birds died from avian influenza. Webster and his colleagues wanted to know what role the birds might play in spreading the virus.

In a laboratory study, the scientists found that captured starlings infected with four strains of avian influenza breathed and defecated large amounts of virus. One uninfected starling picked up the bug from

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