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H5N1 Confirmed in India

Recombinomics Commentary

February 18, 2006

Indian government officials on Saturday said that a laboratory had confirmed the country's first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in chickens.

"Fifty-thousand birds have died. We have sent dead birds to the highest level laboratory in (the state of) Bhopal. They have confirmed H5N1 bird flu" in chickens, said Anees Ahmed, the minister for animal husbandry for western Maharashtra state

The above comments confirm H5N1 in India.  Although India has never acknowledged H5N1 in birds or people previously, finding H5N1 in India is not a surprise.  H5N1 antibodies have been previously detected in poultry workers in India, and the bar-headed geese at Qingahi Lake, winter in northern India.

In May of 2005, the H5N1 in bar-headed geese and other long range migratory birds signaled the worldwide expansion of H5N1.  It was subsequently detected in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia in the summer, followed by outbreaks on the Volga Delta, Danube Delta and western Turkey in the fall.  More recently it has been reported throughout western Europe and several locations in the Middle East (see World map) and Africa (see Africa map).

India is in the Central South Asia flyway, which includes sites of H5N1, including Qinghai lake.  Therefore, H5N1 was expected throughout India this winter.

Although the outbreak in western India is the first reported, it is not likely the last.


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