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H5N1 in Dead Mute Swans in England Confirmed

Recombinomics Commentary 15:58
January 10, 2008

Defra has today confirmed Avian Influenza in three dead wild mute swans in the Chesil Beach area in Dorset, following positive test results from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency for the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1. These birds were found and tested following our routine surveillance programme.

A Wild Bird Control Area and Monitoring Area are being established around the premises, encompassing Chesil Beach and Portland Bill, and the shape of these is based on expert ornithological advice.

The above comments from Defra confirm H5N1 in wild birds in England.  The location of the swannery is on the southern coast (see satellite map) which is about 200 miles southwest of the earlier outbreak in free range turkeys.  The presence of H5N1 on the southern coast raises questions about surveillance programs in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, which have not reported any recent outbreaks.  Two years ago England reported H5N1 in a whooper swan that had washed up on the shores of Scotland.  The sequences from the isolate were recently released, and were closely related to H5N1 from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden.

H5N1 has regional markers that clearly distinguish introductions by wild birds.  The H5N1 in the free range turkeys has been said to be related to the wild bird H5N1 from Uva Lake, but that strain has been detected throughout Europe, and sequence data would be required to regionalize the earlier outbreak.  Sequences have been released for three distinct outbreaks in Germany over the summer, Krasnodar in September, and Romania in late November.  Sequences from outbreaks last year in Kuwait in February, France and the Czech Republic over the summer, and more recent outbreaks in Poland, northeastern Germany, Rostov, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel have not been released, which is also true for outbreaks across southern Asia in Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Although monitoring of wild birds remains abysmal, the above countries have detected H5N1 in domestic poultry, and sequence hoarding continues.  Weybridge has still not released H5N1 sequences from 2005 and 2006.

The time for release of these sequences has long since passed.

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