Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The tests were reassuring

The good news is that almost all of the tests carried out by Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are negative for any kind of influenza in wild birds. The bad news is that they shouldn't be.

Various forms of influenza are a disease of birds and commonly found in 6% to 7% of samples, according to New Scientist (via TimesOnline). But Defra's testing found only two cases in 3343 samples in December -- .06%.
“There’s something wrong with these numbers,” Björn Olsen, of the University of Kalmar, in Sweden, told New Scientist.

The collection method may be the key. A sterile swab is used to take a faecal sample and stored in a refrigerator. Scientists say that the swabs should be immersed in a saline solution and then frozen. “If you left a swab in the refrigerator like that it would dry out and you’d lose all your virus,” Dr Olsen said. (TimesOnline)

[Hat tip, reader anon_22]

Update, 4/13/06: Defra has released a statement that they stand-by their "testing methods 100%, including sample collection and storage." (via The Herald). So that's that, I guess.