This is a nice experiment. The information is needed in the overall understanding of pandemic infections and of emerging infections. People are part of the environment, but we mediate our interactions through culture. In the H5N1 example, we domesticate waterfowl and therefore provide a new natural pathway. This experiment is designed to understand the characteristics of that pathway.

[Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the other participants in the research have been included in its design (public involvement) which means that only parts of the study have been thought through. For example, sometimes “subjects” want to be identified in reports. They contribute as much as the other experts to the success of the questions asked.]

(see if you can provide alternative hypotheses to test, that is, what other reasons may account for finding antibodies, the record of exposure, or for not finding antibodies?)

01 July 2006, By KENT ATKINSON,2106,3717569a3600,00.html

New Zealand scientists specialising in animal and human health are working on a pilot project to map potential pathways by which a dangerous avian influenza could spread from wild birds.

The two-part two-year study focuses on relatively benign and common strains of avian influenza virus – which do not cause disease in humans – to figure the potential risks posed by backyard poultry.

The small-scale probe of how viruses move from wild birds to poultry and whether these viruses also spread to humans will be done at the mouth of the Kaituna River in the Bay of Plenty and near Lake Wairarapa….

New Zealand has never recorded a dangerous avian influenza virus such as the H5N1 strain in its birds, but has 35 harmless strains in wild birds.

So the researchers from the new National Centre for Biosecurity and Infectious Disease (NCBID), which brings several groups together, will search for the harmless strains to get clues about how a dangerous virus might spread if it got into the country. …

“In a nutshell. . . how viruses in wild birds might move into backyard poultry. . . and how humans living in those households might be exposed to infection,” said Bruce Adlam who works for Environmental Science and Research….

Dr Adlam said researchers hoped about 40 households on smallholdings would volunteer to help in each of the two study areas, so that in each area 10 with the most exposure to wild birds could be chosen.

The information from participants would be confidential, and identities would not be disclosed in the scientific reports.