Chinese scientists report bird flu in sparrows

Chinese scientists said they had found the H5N1 bird flu virus in sparrows two years ago, the first time it has been detected in non-migratory birds in China, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in the central province of Hubei, found the virus in sparrows´ excrement following an outbreak of bird flu in a county in neighboring Henan province.

"There´s no need for the public to panic. The findings are two years old and there is no indication that sparrows pose a risk," Xinhua quoted Li Tianxian, a researcher at the institute, as saying.

Chinese officials have in the past blamed outbreaks of bird flu in the country on migratory birds, but the findings indicate that the virus could also be among local birds common in urban areas.

With the world´s largest poultry population, China is seen as a center in the fight against bird flu, which scientists fear could mutate into a form that can pass easily between people, potentially causing a pandemic.

The country has already seen dozens of outbreaks of the virus in birds and at least 21 human cases, of whom 14 have died.

F.I.C would also like to call users´ attention on the H5N1 influenza virus isolated from tigers and lions in China since 2002.