Bird Flu Virus Can Survive Two Years in Landfill

Carcasses of infected birds continue to be infectious, study finds

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FRIDAY, June 5, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Poultry carcasses infected with the bird flu virus can remain infectious in municipal landfills for as long as two years, say Nebraska researchers.

Hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks infected with bird flu have died or been killed worldwide in an effort to control the spread of the disease, they noted. The remains are disposed of in different ways, including burial in landfills. For example, the carcasses of more than 4 million poultry that were culled or died during a 2002 outbreak in Virginia were placed in municipal landfills, according to a news release from the American Chemical Society.

But the safety of landfill disposal has received little attention, said the researchers who conducted the study. They found that the bird flu virus can survive in landfill leachate -- liquid that drains from a landfill -- for at least 30 days and up to two years.

Factors that most reduced the virus' survival times were elevated temperatures and acidic or alkaline pH, the news release noted.

"Data obtained from this study indicate that landfilling is an appropriate method of disposal of carcasses infected with avian influenza," concluded Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt and colleagues, who noted that landfills are designed to hold material for much longer than two years.

The study is to be published in the June 15 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about bird flu.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, May 27, 2009

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