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H5N1 Suspected in Denmark and Northern Poland
February 15, 2006
Dead birds were found late yesterday and early today on Danish islands Lolland, Falster and Zealand and were sent for testing, Danish television TV2 Oest said. Ruegen is located less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the Danish island Bornholm and the southern Swedish coastline.
Poland will test the bodies of three dead swans found in the northern part of the country for bird flu, press agency PAP reported. The examination of the birds found in Krynica Morska, a Polish city on the Baltic coast, will be concluded tomorrow, the newswire said, citing Anna Dyksinska of the Gdansk regional veterinary office.
The above comments suggest the H5N1 confirmed in northern Germany along the Baltic coast will also be confirmed in Demark and northern Poland (see map). These swan deaths are also close to Sweden. Other countries on the southern shore of the Baltic sea include Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia,
These locations are markedly north of the outbreaks being reported in European countries near the Mediterranean Sea, but both locations raise the possibility of H5N1 migration form birds using the East Atlantic Flyway in the fall to migrate south to western Africa.
Reports from Russia in August suggest that H5N1 infections were not limited to southern Siberia, but included regions to the north as well. The Mission report from Russia descried two dozen species that were H5N1 positive, suggesting that migration from Russia covered most of Europe. However, in the fall western Europe denied H5N1 infections, which are now being reported almost hourly throughout Europe, including confirmation six EU members (Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Hungary).
H5N1 in this region is cause for concern. In 2003 there was a major outbreak of H7N7 in The Netherlands, and H5N7 reassortants have been described in Denmark. H5 from migratory birds also has sequences from Sweden, so recombination between H5 and H7 sero-types is common.
Serological studies indicated H7N7 efficiently infected humans, leading to concerns of H5N1 acquire H7 sequences leading to more efficient infections of humans. The H5N1 detected in swans in the region will soon be reinforced by H5N1 out of Africa, since H5N1 in Nigeria is suspected of migrating into the East Atlantic Flyway.
As H5N1 expands its geographical reach, new opportunities for recombination emerge, and recombinations that lead to acquisition of polymorphisms such as S227N which increase the affinity of H5N1 for human receptors is cause for concern.