Read the original article by Jessica Seaman at denverpost.com here.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Colorado State University on Monday asking the school to end experiments that involve infecting wild birds with the West Nile virus.
The animal rights group, known as PETA, said in the letter addressed to CSU President Anthony Frank that the experiments on birds have “little relevance to West Nile virus infection in human populations.”
“The extreme cruelty of removing these birds from the wild — possibly taking them away from their vulnerable babies who are then left to fend for themselves — and their use in painful and ultimately lethal experiments cannot be justified by the ostensible ends for which the experiments are carried out,” writes Alka Chandna, vice president of laboratory investigations cases at PETA.
Alan Rudolph, vice president for research at CSU, defended the university’s research on the West Nile virus and other diseases, saying, in a statement, that it “not only helps understand health risks to humans, but this important work also aids avian populations.”
“Research into West Nile virus is essential to understand how we can take steps to save human and animal lives from the effects of these types of viruses, and it contributes significantly to our understanding of mosquito-transmitted illnesses and their bird hosts,” Rudolph said.
He added, “Per institutional policies and procedures, review of this research includes community members and experts to ensure our practices meet or exceed the guidelines for the treatment of animals.”
West Nile virus often spreads to people via mosquito bites. Symptoms of the virus, which can be fatal, can include fever, headache, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea. In rarer instances, individuals can develop serious illness that affects the central nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is no vaccine available for West Nile.
PETA alleges that through the CSU experiments, researchers trap American crows, American robins and house sparrows and then inject them with West Nile.
The group says that after the birds are injected with the virus, they are kept alive while the virus spreads through their organs, such as their hearts and kidneys, and that the birds show symptoms, such as fever and anorexia. Some of the birds, including crows, die within days of being injected with the virus, according to PETA’s letter.
“Given that transmission of West Nile virus can be controlled by eliminating mosquito breeding sites and limiting contact between humans and mosquitoes, there is no need to capture and kill wild birds,” Chandna writes in PETA’s letter.