In 2005 and 2006, highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 infected wild birds or poultry in at least 55 countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Scientists still have limited understanding of how these wild birds were infected and of how the virus behaves in a field setting. Better ecological and ornithological data are essential to resolve these uncertainties. At present, information on species identity, location and habitat, and sampling and capture methodology, as well as details of the affected bird populations, are inadequate or lacking for most incidents of H5N1 in wild birds. Greater involvement by ornithologists and ecologists, who have extensive experience in conducting field research on wild animals, is vital to improve our ability to predict outbreaks and reduce the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of H5N1 avian influenza.
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