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Amid concerns about a pandemic of swine flu, researchers from
Nebraska report for the first time that poultry carcasses infected with
another threat — the “bird flu” virus — can remain infectious in
municipal landfills for almost 2 years. Their report is scheduled for
the June 15 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt and colleagues note that avian influenza,
specifically the H5N1 strain, is an ongoing public health concern.
Hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks infected with the virus have
died or been culled from flocks worldwide in efforts to control the
disease. More than 4 million poultry died or were culled in a 2002
outbreak in Virginia, and the carcasses were disposed of in municipal
landfills. Until now, few studies have directly assessed the safety of
“The objectives of this study were to assess the survival of avian
influenza in landfill leachate and the influence of environmental
factors,” says the report. The data showed that the virus survived in
landfill leachate — liquid that drains or “leaches” from a landfill —
for at least 30 days and up to 600 days. The two factors that most
reduced influenza survival times were elevated temperature and acidic
or alkaline pH. “Data obtained from this study indicate that
landfilling is an appropriate method for disposal of carcasses infected
with avian influenza,” says the study, noting that landfills are
designed to hold material for much longer periods of time.
-- News release courtesy of American Chemical Society
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