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Fujian H5N8 In Dead Mute Swans In Stockholm Sweden
Recombinomics Commentary
March 20, 2015 18:00

Agriculture Department announced today that the bird flu H5N8 has been detected in two dead mute swans found on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm.

Maliuc authorites reported on Oct. 5 three dead swans, on October 7 32 more, and yesterday (Sunday) another 15.

The above comments (in red) describe the confirmation of Fujian (clade H5N8 in two dead mute swans in Stockholm, Sweden (see H5N8 map), which follows the report of H5N8 in Hungary.  Both reports followed announcements from the four western European countries infected in late 2014 (Germany, Netherlands, England, Italy) that they were H5N8 free, creating striking similarities between the 2005/2006 H5N1 (Qinghai clade 2.2) outbreak that brought H5N1 to 40 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and southern Asia where H5N1 had not been previously reported, and the 2014/2015 outbreak of Fujian H5N8.

Both outbreaks involved an H5 that had never been reported previously in Europe, but had been confirmed in Russia prior to the European cases.  In 2005 some of the initial cases were in swans in Romania (as noted in red above).  Although the swans above were whooper swans, in the spring there was an explosion of H5N1 detections in mute swans in Europe.

The re-emergence of the H5 in the spring is largely related to migration and surveillance patterns.  Over the winter the H5 spreads in wild birds, but interactions with humans and poultry are limited.  In the spring as birds start to migrate, new interactions with poultry lead to infections like those in Hungary, or other wild birds, as seen in Sweden.

Similar patterns have developed for the Fujian H5 in North America.  The wild bird surveillance in the US and Canada failed to detect any of the three H5 serotypes prior to the outbreak in commercial farms in Fraser Valley in British Columbia in December, 2014.  However, subsequent increased surveillance in Whatcom County, Washington did lead to the detection of H5N2, H5N8, and H5N1 within 7 miles of the Canadian border. 

This surveillance was expanded to the Pacific Flyway, leading to confirmation of Fujian H5 in 38 wild birds, largely through testing of hunter killed birds.  However, the hunting season ended in January and no wild bird positives with collection dates after January were reported.

This reduced surveillance in the Pacific Flyway, and the absence of surveillance in the Central and Mississippi was independent of wild bird migration of H5 spread, as seen by the appearance of H5N2 in five farms in four states in the two flyways (see H5N2 map). 

The appearance of H5N2 in the spring, in the absence of any wild bird surveillance, has been cited as evidence of spread via mechanisms that did not involve wild birds by claims of a direct association between the recent reports, which has no scientific basis, although the pseudo-analysis was widely reported.

The widespread distribution of H5N1 in the spring of 2006 strongly suggests that Fujian H5 outbreaks will be common in Europe and North America in the upcoming weeks.

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