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Pigeons and Bird Flu

November 15, 2005

One listener asks: When it comes to bird flu, should we worry about pigeons?


Do pigeons catch avian flu? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A flu that has been spreading among birds in Asia has been in the news a lot recently. Experts worry that avian flu will jump to humans and become contagious. Listener Betty Hsu from Chicago called to ask:

Is the bird flu going to affect the pigeons?

We asked Smithsonian disease ecologist Dana Hawley. She told us that pigeons don’t seem to get the bird flu.

DANA HAWLEY (Smithsonian):
Scientists have actually tried to infect pigeons in the lab, and they really don’t show any signs, they don’t shed the virus, and so they don’t appear to pose any great risk to humans in cities.

This may be because pigeons are not closely related to the poultry and other birds that carry the virus.

Call us at 1-800-why-isit with your science question. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.