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Cattle egrets may spread bird flu virus: researchers

Researchers at the National Sun Yat-sen University urged farmers in central and southern Taiwan to beef up the nets around their chicken ranches as cattle egrets (a type of bird) could be major carriers and spreaders of the bird flu virus.

Biology Professor Chang Hsueh-wen said yesterday that long-term observations and studies by his team found that cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) were frequently lured to chicken ranches to catch insects which were attracted by chicken droppings.

In addition, the cattle egrets tend to mix with other migratory birds at wetlands or water reservoirs in southern parts of the island, Chang said.

The lifestyle of cattle egrets make them ready made to spread H5N1 bird flu viruses that can also infect human beings.

There are two major categories of cattle egrets in Taiwan during winter season.

The researchers, from the National Science Council, conducted the research from 2008 to 2010 in Kaohsiung area covering several wetlands, dams, and 25 fowl ranches, Chang said.

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