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Fujian H5N8 US Spread Raises Surveillance Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary
January 5, 2015 20:00

The Benton County backyard flock includes domestic waterfowl with access to the outdoors.

''We have not diagnosed the virus anywhere else in our domestic poultry population, but the presence of the virus in migratory waterfowl is a risk to backyard poultry,'' state veterinarian Dr. Joe Baker said Friday in a statement. ''One step owners should take is preventing contact between their birds and wild birds.''

Also last month, federal agricultural officials confirmed the presence of a strain of the H5 virus in guinea fowl and chickens in a 100-bird backyard poultry flock in the southern Oregon community of Winston.

The above comments describe two confirmed outbreaks of Fujian H5 in backyard flocks in Benton, Washington and Winston, Oregon.  The OIE report on the Winston, Oregon outbreak noted that the outbreak was due to H5N8 and the most related sequence suggested it was more related to the H5N2 in the northern pintail near Wiser Lake than the H5N8 wigeon at Wiser Lake.  The relatedness of the Benton, Washington H5 has not been cited in part because an OIE report hasn’t been released yet.
However, the Benton, Washington location is the farthest east and raises concerns that the Fujian H5 (clade 2.3..6) is widespread in North American wild birds.  Rumored reports of H5 in a wild bird in Butte County, California place the outbreak significantly south of the prior outbreaks (see H5N8 map) and raises concerns that Fujian H5 is much more widespread than indicated in OIE reports by the CFIA in Canada and the USDA in the United States.

Although Canada has reported H5N2 at 12 farms (11 commercial and 1 back yard) in British Columbia, there have been no reports of H5N8 anywhere in Canada, or H5N2 in wild birds.

Similarly, the USDA has reported H5N8 in wild birds and back yard holding(s) and H5N2 was in wild birds, neither strain has been reported in commercial holdings.

The sequence data indicates the H5N2 represents a novel reassortant of H5N8 with 3 North American gene segments, including N2.  However, neither the CFIA nor the FDA has released sequences from any of the isolates, although the FDA reports suggests the characterized North American isolates are distinct from the H5N8 in Europe and Russia, which match each other and selective areas in Japan.

Release of North American sequences and more aggressive surveillance would be useful.

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