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H5N1 in Wild and Domestic Birds in Hong Kong Cause Concerns

Recombinomics Commentary

February 1, 2006

three non-migratory birds — two oriental magpies and a crested mynah — have been found dead here in public places fairly close to the Guangdong border in the past two weeks.

Hunan province officials in central China strongly denied in early November that a boy and his sister there had been infected with the disease. National health investigators subsequently determined that the children had been infected with bird flu; the 9-year-old boy recovered but his 12-year-old sister died.

a 42-year-old man, has been put in an isolation ward at a respiratory diseases hospital along with his 39-year-old sister and 78-year-old mother, who lived in the same house. Not one has a fever, although the man has teary eyes and the sister has a runny nose.

The above comments on H5N1 in Hong Kong are cause for concern.  Hong Kong filed an OIE report on the first H5N1 isolated in 2006,  A/Mrb/HK/75/06(H5N1).  The H5 was 98% homologous to A/Dk/Hunan/5806/03(H5N1) and was missing the same K in the HA cleavage site.  The cleavage site missing the K was also detected in A/Ph/ST/44/2004(H5N1), A/Dk/HN/101/2004(H5N1), A/Dk/HN/303/2004(H5N1), A/duck/China/E319-2/03(H5N1), A/chicken/Guangdong/178/04(H5N1), A/chicken/Guangdong/191/04(H5N1), A/Duck/Hunan/114/05(H5N1), A/Chicken/Shantou/810/05(H5N1).

The relatedness with isolates from Hunan and Guangdong provinces in the past suggest this strain of H5N1 has been in the area since 2003, but the recent isolates in Hong Kong raise the possibility that the H5N1 is becoming more active in the area.  This is of concern since there have already been reported human cases in Hunan.

These four Hong Kong isolates suggest H5N1 is again circulating in Guangdong Province, although outbreaks have not been reported this year. 

Further spread of the H5N1 in Guangdong and Hong Kong could be facilitated by the movement of people and poultry in association with celebrations of the Chinese New Year.


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