A team of researchers have come up with a theory to explain why we can predict when a bird is likely to be sick in a new study that suggests that this ability may help us keep up with the disease-carrying animals around us.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, lead author Prof Chris Parnell and his colleagues at the University of Newcastle say that this knowledge is crucial to the protection of birds.
The study began when Prof Parnel and his team began looking at the evolution of avian influenza (A/H3N2) from 1918 to 2012 and discovered that it was spreading rapidly throughout Australia.
They were particularly interested in how it had changed over time and discovered its rapid spread in the region between 1918 and 2012.
They noticed that A/H1N1 (swine flu) viruses had started to appear and that this was leading to a major decline in the numbers of birds in Australia, particularly in the South West.
But as A/S viruses became more widespread, this pattern changed, with fewer and fewer birds being infected.
It also meant that they began to show up in far fewer places, with the number of birds falling.
In other words, the virus spread faster and faster.
This meant that birds had become more and more infected, and when they started to get sick, it was much more likely that it would be in the form of A/F.
So what happened?
A/I and A/N viruses were the first virus to appear in Australia and have continued to spread throughout the continent.
This allowed them to infect more birds and so it was only natural that we would see them in Australia in the first place.
Prof Parnill and his co-authors say that they were surprised to find that they had found the answer.
They discovered that the changes in the virus they were studying were in fact linked to the bird flu pandemic.
“The first virus was A/T, and the pandemic had already affected Australia in a big way.
So we realised that if you can predict the spread of a virus, you can also predict the virus that is spreading and what it is,” Prof Partell told BBC News.
And it turns out that birds were getting sick as a result of the pandemics.
While the scientists say that the ability to predict where a bird might be sick is a vital part of the avian health plan, they also argue that it is possible that we have a general knowledge of how the virus spreads and can therefore predict where the virus is going to go. “
That was a big surprise because we thought that birds might have died off, and we’d had some really cool results about the effect of bird flu on animals that we’d previously seen in the laboratory,” he said.
While the scientists say that the ability to predict where a bird might be sick is a vital part of the avian health plan, they also argue that it is possible that we have a general knowledge of how the virus spreads and can therefore predict where the virus is going to go.
They say that their research shows that we should not be complacent when it comes to our avian neighbours, because there are a number of factors that can change the likelihood of an outbreak.
For instance, the spread between birds is influenced by weather patterns and other factors, and this is often dependent on where the birds live.
Also, Prof Pannell says that the study shows that the more we know about the virus, the better we can detect and stop outbreaks.
“If you can actually predict where these viruses are going to spread, you are better able to stop them,” he added.
More: The Australian and New Zealand governments are also working on ways to monitor bird flu outbreaks.
Follow BBC Travel on Facebook for more from the UK.