Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

February 13, 2006

Avian flu — Africa, Thai dogs, catching up

Filed under: avian influenza — admin @ 10:40 pm

Some quick pointers/quick catch up.
I’ve published tonight a piece showing the first scientific evidence of possible widespread infection of dogs with the avian flu virus H5N1; in Thailand: see “Thai dogs carry bird-flu virus, but will they spread it?

There is also a larger piece on the situation in Nigeria, looking at the role of migratory birds: Doubts hang over source of bird flu spread. This follows up from a shorter piece published online on 9 Feb: Bird flu reaches Africa.

I was interviewed by BBC Radio 5 tonight on the latest avian flu outbreaks; the broadcast will be available as an audio file tomorrow here.

I’ll also be speaking on the next Nature podcast, out on Wednesday evening here but on a totally different subject. It’s to do with a feature I have coming out in Nature on the same day. It’s on an interesting topic, which I’ll also blog here then.

I’m also working in the evenings on a major rebuild of my beta Google Earth avian flu maps which will add several extra layers, and an update on the spate of recent cases — hopefully this will be finished sometime this week, before I head off to the AAAS meetig in St Louis, where I’ll be giving a talk on scientific computing and communications.

Turning to another disease close to my heart, I was at the at Nobel Forum in Stockholm end January, for a meeting centred on malaria: the Neglected Tropical Diseases Quick Impact Initiative Meeting. Nature has an editorial on the subject here: “Malaria quagmire.” It was part of the UN Millennium Project . In 2004, I edited a major supplement on malaria in Nature, which is well worth a read, as it’s an excellent and readable overview by top experts of a complicated disease that kills millions every year, and the huge challenge of controlling it. For anyone who wants to delve deeper into the science and politics of the disease, see a longer report by the UK cross-party parliamentary group on malaria, which I co-authored last summer.

In the same issue of Nature as the Stockholm editorial, I’d an article on an unusual speculative venture by scientists and Silicon Valley entepreneurs to launch a sort of peer-reviewed Wikipedia, and web portals; the Digital Universe. The article, “Experts plan to reclaim the web for pop science,” takes a critical look at the venture.

For more regular blog postings, see my various ‘thin blogs’ including ones on avian flu, and on GIS.

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