Finches can pass H7N9 bird flu to chickens

society finch

In laboratory experiments, society finches spread H7N9 into water when they drank, in turn infecting chickens and quail that drank the same water.

Malik_Braun/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Finches, parakeets and sparrows are the ultimate source of H7N9 avian influenza, a new study concludes.

More than 600 people have contracted H7N9 bird flu in China, and more than 200 have died. Most of the people probably caught it from infected chickens, but it hasn’t been clear where chickens pick up the virus.

In laboratory experiments, society finches spread H7N9 from their mouths into water when they drank, researchers report in the April Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Chickens and quail could then be infected by drinking that same water, the researchers found. The virus does not seem to spread between birds through the air.

Tina Hesman Saey

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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