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Qinghai H5N1 Spread in Turkey
Recombinomics Commentary
February 15, 2007

The latest OIE report from Turkey describes the continued spread of H5N1 in the southeastern provinces of Batman and Diyarbakir.  H5N1 infected birds were culled in Yesilalan field in the village of Akcayir in Silvan as well as Esentepe Field in Doluca in Merkez and Bogazkoy in Gercus in Batman.  These three outbreaks are attributed to wild birds.  The location of the three outbreaks is displayed on the map in the OIE report.

The spread in Turkey, which borders the Black Sea to the south is happening at the same time as H5N1 infections in Krasnodar on the northern shore of the Black Sea.  Russia is also reporting three outbreaks (Borodinskaya in Primorsko-Akhtarsky, Upornaya in Labinsk, and a second outbreak in Labinsk).  The location of these three outbreaks is depicted on the map included in the OIE report.

These six outbreaks follow the two outbreaks reported in southeastern Hungary in Szentes district in Csongrad province on a farm in Derekegyhaz-Ordongos and Szentes-Lapisto. 

The confirmation of these multiple outbreaks in the three countries above is in addition to suspect outbreaks in Azerbaijan and Georgia in regions adjacent to the eastern shores of the Black Sea.

Last season initial reports of H5N1 in the region were in the fall in Romania and western Turkey.  That was followed by a series of reports of H5N1 throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.  These reports from last season were almost all made in February and March, although H5N1 had clearly moved into the region months earlier.

This season, surveillance is again extremely poor.  H5N1 detection is not reported until birds on farms begin to die with H5N1 symptoms.  All of these reports described the Qinghai strain of H5N1 which is transported and transmitted by migratory birds, but detection is generally limited to wild birds that have died or infection of poultry in backyard or commercial farms.

Last season many of the initial reports were from mute swans that died in February or March.  These birds are not migratory, but serve as markers of H5N1 in the region.  The deaths may be due to a combination of factors that lead to an increase in the H5N1 level which is subsequently detected in the various countries in Europe, but the actual arrival of Qinghai H5N1 into the region is months prior to detection.

Some countries in Europe have only found H5N1 in wild birds, while in other cases, such as the ones described above, detection is limited to dead or dying poultry.

In addition to the recent outbreaks described above, H5N1 has been detected in multiple locations in Pakistan, Egypt, and Nigeria.  These outbreaks are also linked to migratory birds and all H5N1 detected is the Qinghai strain.

In Hungary, the H5N1 was 99.4% identical to Qinghai outbreaks from last season and was 99.96% identical to the H5N1 that spread on a turkey farm in the UK.

The failure to detect the H5N1 in the region prior to outbreaks on farms is cause for concern.  H5N1 is again widespread in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but like, last season, most countries have failed to detect / report the Qinghai H5N1 in the regions.

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