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Elizabeth Loh

Research Scientist

Elizabeth Loh

Research scientist Elizabeth Loh brings a human dimension to our projects.
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Deadly Bird Disease Spreads to Europe

September 22, 2011

finchThe disease responsible for the widespread deaths of popular British garden birds has now spread to mainland Europe, according to new research published in EcoHealth journal.

Trichomonosis first emerged in British finches in 2005, and it rapidly spread east across the country. Since then, the disease has caused local population declines among greenfinches and chaffinches. In some counties, greenfinch populations dropped by as much as one third within a year of the disease's emergence.

The new research, which was also reported by the BBC and other news sources, suggests that chaffinches carried the parasite responsible for causing the disease while migrating from British shores to the Scandinavian Peninsula.

The research team conducting the study found the same parasite strain in both European and British finches. Further investigation identified an overlap between chaffinch migration patterns and the path of disease emergence.

  • "Understanding emerging infectious diseases and how they're spread is essential if we're going to protect people and wildlife in the future," said Dr. Becki Lawson, wildlife veterinarian at the Zoological Society of London and lead author on the EcoHealth paper.

Confirming bird migration as the cause of disease spread is surprisingly rare. When sufficient evidence does emerge, it typically deals with viral diseases rather than parasites.

  • "Information derived from ringed birds continues to provide crucial insight into behaviour, ecology and disease, as seen in this case with trichomonosis," said Dr. Rob Robinson of the British Trust for Ornithology. "This in turns plays an important role in the conservation of many of our best-loved garden birds."

Birds suffering from trichomonosis often look lethargic and have fluffed-up feathers. They may also have trouble breathing and show signs of struggling to feed. The disease can occur at any time of the year but tends to peak during August and September. Researchers intend to continue disease surveillance to determine the possible prevention techniques as well as the impact on wild bird populations throughout Europe.

About EcoHealth
EcoHealth is an international, peer-reviewed journal focused on the integration of knowledge at the interface between ecological and health sciences.  Launched in 2004 as the foundation of the International Association of Ecology and Health (IAEH), the journal is published quarterly in hard copy and online by Springer-Verlag New York, LLC.

EcoHealth Alliance is a partner organization of the IAEH, and Dr. Peter Daszak currently serves as editor-in-chief of the journal.

To learn more read the most recent press about the EcoHealth manuscript:

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