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Alarmed by the spread of bird flu — avian influenza — in Asia, last September the World Organisation for Animal Health and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation strengthened their recommendation to vaccinate poultry to control its spread. Yet, although vaccination is gaining popularity, it remains controversial.

Dennis Normile explores current thinking and policy decisions on the matter. The main benefit of vaccination would be to reduce the amount of wild virus in poultry populations, which would prevent its transmission to other flocks. However, the vaccine can be hard to track, and Thailand has rejected vaccination as it fears it could allow the virus to spread through poultry undetected.

There are, however, fears that commercial interests are hidden behind the Thai policy. Thailand is one of the world's largest exporters of poultry. And Thai officials believe it will be easier to convince their trading partners that their birds are safe if the disease can be controlled without vaccination.

Link to full news story in Science

Reference: Science 306, 399 (2004)

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