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Another Dead Mute Swan in England

Recombinomics Commentary 17:27
January 12, 2008

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that two more dead swans found in the area have tested negative for the H5N1 strain.

Another dead swan was found along the Fleet lagoon at the historic tourist attraction on Saturday and will be sent for testing.

It takes the total number of dead swans found in the area to ten since December 27, said Mr Houston.

Tests were being carried out on the dead birds at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge and a Defra spokeswoman said: "There are other birds being tested.

The above comments describe results on the two swans collected on Tuesday, but the swan found today brings the total to five for the past three days, providing additional support for more positives in the mute swans dying in the Fleet lagoon (see satellite map).

The three positives were collected over a one week period, signaling an H5N1 source in the region.  Moreover, the swans can infect each other, so more swans should test H5N1 positive.

Although there many be 20-30 swan deaths in a cold January, the weather has been warm in southern England, so five deaths in three days are above normal.  Moreover, the news of the positives will lead to more citizens calling in dead birds.

Positive bird flu results are dependent on the condition of the sample, and the sensitivity of the testing.  Recent data suggests mute swans had a higher viral load in experimental infections, which may be why they are among the most common host for H5N1 positive samples.  Increased awareness should lead to collection of fresh samples.

The recent announcement that the sequences from the mute swans were most closely related to H5N1 from wild birds in the Czech Republic implies that the sequences do not match the earlier outbreak in free range turkey in Suffolk, indicating independent wild bird introductions.

Thus, the endemic H5N1 in England should become more evident if surveillance is increased.

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