It has been warned by Government officials that the much dreaded bird flu virus may be carried across by pigeons into city centres in UK. The feral birds have the potential of posing a serious health hazard, specifically in the urban areas, as they are susceptible to infection by the H5N1 bird flu viral strain.
The exact mechanism of how pigeons contract the infection and spread the virus is unknown. However, if bird flu virus is found in birds in U.K, it is feared that nearly all species could be at risk.
'In the event of the infection being present in our wild bird population, there is a danger to all avian species, wild, feral and domestic - and that includes pigeons. We have at this stage to assume that all avian species are capable of being infected with this virus, unless we know otherwise,' said Dr. Bob McCracken, former President, British Veterinary Association.
Inhalation of faecal dust from bird flu infected pigeons could pose a significant health hazard to human beings. Pigeons have already been known to spread a flu like illness (psittacosis) that can result in pneumonia, liver damage and even death.
Close contact with poultry, inhalation of dried faecal discharges form infected chickens has been responsible for bird flu transmission from chickens to human beings. Bird flu virus has claimed the valuable lives of 93 individuals and infected more than 150 others, ever since it emerged in 2003.
Although the probability of transmission of the bird flu virus to wild birds is negligible, it cannot be ignored. Waterfowl such as geese, poultry and ducks are main carriers of the H5N1 virus. Causalities have also been reported in doves, hawks, starlings, pigeons, thrushes and crows.