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Fujian H5N2 In Wyoming Canada Goose Raises Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary
March 27, 2015 18:00

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in a wild Canada goose in Laramie County, Wyoming.

The above comments describe the first Fujian H5 (clade confirmation in a wild bird in the United States outside of the Pacific Flyway (see H5N2 map), as well as the first confirmation in a sample collected after January 23, 2015.  The USDA initiated an enhanced surveillance in the Pacific Flyway after H5N2 was confirmed in Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada.  Five days after the December 3 Canada OIE report samples were collected from a northern pintail that had died at Wiser Lake in Whatcom County, Washington, 7 miles south of Fraser Valley, as well as captive gyrfalcons in Lyndon, Washington who had died after being fed a widgeon captured near Wiser Lake.

The H5N2 in the northern pintail,
Northern_pintail/Washington/40964/2014, was closely related to the H5N2 detected at the index turkey farm in Abbottsford (A/turkey/BC/FAV10/2014) as well as the index chicken farm in Chilliwack (A/turkey/BC/FAV8/2014, A/turkey/BC/FAV9/2014), the two outbreaks described in the OIE report.  Moreover, the H5N8 in the gyrfalcon was most closely related to a crane sequence in Japan (A/crane/Kagoshima/KU1/2014), and was the parental strain for the H5N2, which was a reassortant that had acquired 3 North American wild bird flu segments (PB1, NP, N2).  Thus, both serotypes were Fujian clade, as was an H5N1 reassortant detected in a hunter killed green-winged teal near Sumas, also in Whatcom County near the Canadian border and Fraser Valley.

The detection of clade in Washington led to enhanced surveillance involving multiple national agencies, as well as local agriculture departments in states in the Pacific Flyway administrative group, which has identified Fujian H5 in 45 wild birds, which were largely from tracheal and cloacal swabs from hunter killed birds during the remainder of the hunting season.  Thus, prior to the confirmation in in the Canada goose near Cheyenne, Wyoming (in a sample collected March 16), all reported wild bird positives were from the Pacific Flyway administrative group on samples collected between December 8, 2014 and January 23. 2015.

After the January 23 sample (from a mallard in Lincoln County, Nevada) was confirmed on January 30, the USDA announced additional confirmations in samples collected in December and January.  The positives were entered in an APHIS table, which included the collection and confirmation dates for each positive sample.  Recent confirmations were on samples collected 2-3 months earlier. After reporting the positives on the APHIS website, OIE reports were filed, but the OIE reports did not include collection dates, but instead used confirmation dates as the start of each newly reported outbreak. 

This procedure led to conclusions that new outbreaks in wild birds in the Pacific Flyway were being reported in February and March samples collected after the end of the hunting season and the end of the enhanced surveillance.The routine surveillance failed to identify clade prior to the outbreak in Fraser Valley or in any wild bird collection outside of the Pacific Flyway in December and January, or anywhere in the US prior to the March 16 collection for the Canada goose cited above. 

The latest H5N2 wild bird confirmed case in USDA OIE reports was a Canada goose from Jefferson County, Washington confirmed on March 5, but collected on December 30, 2014.  Similarly, the 7 most recent cases added to the APHIS table were confirmed on March 19, but included 3 H5N8 confirmations using samples collected between Dec 22, 2014 and Jan 1, 2015 and 4 H5N2 confirmations collected between January 10 and Jan 18, 2015.

The March detection of H5N2 in Midwest farms (Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas) led to wild speculation linking the detections to each other or confirmations in the Pacific Flyway using December, 2014 and January, 2015 collections, to claim that the location of these collections relative to earlier collections provided evidence for movements, which were inconsistent with wild bird migrations.  However, this speculation failed to note that the enhanced surveillance did not include areas outside of the Pacific Flyway, and the enhanced surveillance ended when the hunting season ended in January, leading to no reported wild bird confirmations in samples collected between January 23 and March 16.

The detection of H5N2 in a wild bird duing routine surveillance raises concerns that the current levels of Fujian H5 are signiicantly higher than levels in late 2014 and early 2015.

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