Wetland restoration could help contain bird flu

A recent report commissioned by the U.N. gives a unique reason to restore tens of thousands of lost or degraded wetlands: It could help keep bird flu at bay. Upon finding their regular flocking grounds drained for agriculture or hydroelectricity, some wild birds alight on still-wet rice paddies and farm ponds, where they can come into contact with domesticated chickens, ducks, and geese. This intermingling of fowl helps spread the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has been found in 45 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. If the wild birds had access to their preferred habitat, the risk of such spreading would be lessened. A recent convention on biological diversity concluded that the flu could potentially affect over 80 percent of all known bird species. Since 2003, 108 people have died after contracting H5N1 from poultry, and scientists fear the virus could mutate to become transmittable between humans.