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California Location Of Fujian H5N8 Gadwall Not In US OIE Report
Recombinomics Commentary
January 9, 2015 18:00

January 5, 2015: A confirmed positive Avian Influenza (AI) serotype H5N8 was found in a wild Gadwall in Butte County, California.
Information received on 07/01/2015 from Dr John Clifford, Deputy Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, United States of America

Outbreaks There are no new outbreaks in this report

As part of the increased AI surveillance of wild birds (performed by testing hunter harvested birds), an H5N8 with an amino acid sequence at the HA cleavage site that is consistent with highly pathogenic avian influenza has been identified in a wild gadwall duck in the Pacific flyway. HA and NA sequence fragments are essentially identical to that found in the reported gyrfalcon.

The above comments in red are from a January 5 California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) report on the confirmation of H5N8 in a wild Gadwall in Butte County, California.  The detail in the report supports the following timeline from various online public reports from stakeholders who received a December 2 e-mail from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) to stakeholders.

The e-mail noted that the sample was H5 PCR confirmed on December 30 by California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory and sequencing was consistent with H5N8.  December 31 National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed H5N8 and January the USDA also confirmed H5N8.  On December 2 NPIP sent out an e-mail detailing these results.  Subsequently, CDFA post the above January 5 announcement, which was followed by a USDA OIE report dated January 7 and released at the OIE website on January 8.

As described above (in blue), the report noted that H5N8 was confirmed in the gadwall and the partial H5 and N8 sequences were essentially identical to the sequences from pet gyrfalcons in Lynden, Washington, which represented the first confirmed H5N8 cases in North America.

However, as seen in the quotes from the OIE report, the confirmation of the California gadwall was not classified as a new outbreak and the detail associated with a new outbreak (location, dates, and testing detail) was not given.  Instead the detail was limited to the remarks section of the report and the location was listed as “the Pacific flyway” which extends from Alaska in North America to Chile in South America.

The PDF version of the OIE report includes a map, which has the H5N8 in the pet falcon in Washington, as well as the backyard farm in Winston, Oregon, but the H5N8 in Butte County California is not listed.  The limiting of the detail on the new outbreak to the remarks section, and the failure to call a new outbreak a new outbreak, is unusual and a likely violation of reporting regulations for new H5 or H7 outbreaks.  The report was eight days after PCR H5 confirmation and six days after H5N8 confirmation and sequencing by two additional labs, including the FDA national lab in Iowa.

The confirmation of high path H5 in the United States has led to import bans by 30 countries/agencies (see list here).  Most of the countries have limited imports from Washington and Oregon, where H5 was confirmed.  US exports from these two states is limited, but California is one of the largest producers in the US, so reporting the confirmation in California may have a serious economic impact.

However, potential economic impacts are true for all infected countries, so reporting of these outbreaks is mandatory to limit spread and warn uninfected countries or locations.  The delay and incomplete reporting of the confirmed California H5N8 case raises serious concerns that other countries or US states will follow the USDA example and limit testing or reporting. 

In Canada, where H5N2 has been confirmed on 12 farms, there have been no reports of H5N2 or H5N8 in any wild birds, even though Washington States has confirmed both within seven miles of the Canadian border and both serotypes undoubtedly are in wild birds that are resident in Canada, as well as those that have migrated to the United States.

The US should amend its January 7 OIE report to include the H5N8 gadwall as a new outbreak in Butte County, California, with location and lab testing detail, as required by international rules and regulations.

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