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H5 Confirmed in Bosnia

Recombinomics Commentary

February 20, 2006

Bosnia reported its first case of bird flu in two swans on Monday but said further tests at a British laboratory would be needed to determine whether it is the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

"It is H5," veterinary office head Jozo Bagaric said, adding samples had already been sent to the European Union's reference laboratory in Weybridge. Results were expected by the end of the week.

He said bird flu was confirmed in two out of four swans that were culled at Malo Plivsko Jezero lake near the western Bosnian town of Jajce on Friday.

The number of European countries confirming H5N1 for the first time continues to increase.  Swans are the most common source of the detected H5N1, but the detection may be more related to the targeting of these birds for testing because so many have been positive.

The failure to detect H5N1 until now is cause for concern.  Although there may have been some recent spread, dead swans have been reported in Croatia, Romania, and Askatran for months.  The H5N1 from these birds trace back to the Qinghai strain, which was initially reported to be killing migratory birds at Qinghai Lake in May of 2005.  Migration into Europe was expected in the fall, and the detection of H5N1 by the countries above indicate that such migration did happen.

Although European countries were warned of this migration and enhanced surveillance was announced, the vast majority of H5 or H5N1 announcements have been made in the past few weeks (see map).  Similar recent announcements have been made in the Middle East, Africa, and India, although birds would have migrated into these regions months ago.

Soon the wintering birds will begin to migrate north to spring locations, and the migration will again target the countries that are reporting detection.

Improvement in surveillance of H5N1 would be useful, since the majority of H5N1 infections in migratory waterfowl does not create fatal infections.


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