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H5N1 Spread in Korea Raises Co-Infection Concerns

Recombinomics Commentary 12:22
April 23, 2008

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said a duck farm in Nonsan, 213 kilometers south of Seoul, was put under quarantine on Tuesday after birds started dying and there was a noticeable drop in egg production.

It is the first time that bird flu has been reported this year in South Chungcheong Province.

Most outbreaks reported this year have been centered in the southwestern Jeolla region in places like Gimje, Jeongeup and Yeongam. There was an isolated case of bird flu confirmed in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, 70 kilometers south of the capital.

The ministry, meanwhile, said the suspected outbreak in Nonsan brings the total number of bird flu cases reported this year to 50. Of the total, 26 have been confirmed as avian influenza

The above comments describe the continuing spread of H5N1 in South Korea (see satellite map).  Although the number of H5N1 outbreaks is at record levels, the military has withdrawn from culling operations after a soldier was H5 lab confirmed after developing bird flu symptoms while culling chickens and ducks.  In addition, testing of asymptomatic ducks has expanded.

The detection of H5 in a culler raises concerns about H5 transmission. Testing of live markets in South Korea has identified a wide range of serotypes in domestic poultry, which provide genetic diversity for H5N1 evolution.  Earlier sequencing of these isolates has demonstrated frequent recombination and a convergence of polymorphisms, suggesting similar changes can be transferred to H5N1.  Recent reports have described lethal H3N2 in dogs in Korea, which is readily transmitted dog to dog.  Since H5N1 has also been reported in dogs, co-infections of H3N2 and H5N1 is a cause for concern.

Recently, neighboring Japan has announced plans to implement an pre-pandemic vaccine program targeting first responders and up to 10-20 million residents, along with the possible expansion of their vaccine stockpile.

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