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H5 Confirmed in Dead Swans in Japan

Recombinomics Commentary 08:55
April 28, 2008

Japan has detected a strain of bird flu in four wild swans after stepping up checks following major outbreaks of the disease in neighbouring South Korea, local and government officials said on Monday. The birds, three of which had died, were found on the shores of Lake Towada in Akita prefecture in the north on April 21, the prefectural government said in a news release. Inspectors detected the H5 strain of bird flu in the swans

The detection of H5 in dead swans in Japan is not a surprise.  Last season the H5N1 outbreaks in South Korea involved the Uvs Lake strain of H5N1, which was isolated from poultry as well as environmental samples from areas frequented by wild birds.  Since low path H5 rarely kills waterfowl, the finding of H5 in dead swans strongly suggests the H5 will again be the Uvs Lake strain of H5N1 and will be closely related to the H5N1 from poultry and a soldier infected this year in South Korea.

This is the first report of H5 in a wild bird in Japan since 2007, suggesting the levels in the wild bird population may be higher this season than prior seasons.  In South Korea H5N1 is at record levels (see satellite map) in poultry, and the soldier is the first PCR confirmed H5 in a human in Korea.  The finding of H5 in Japan supports a pre-pandemic vaccine plan.

The finding of H5 in wild birds in Japan raises additional questions about surveillance in neighboring countries, including North Korea, and China.  Russia recently reported H5N1 in Primorie in chickens fed intestines from wild birds, further supporting H5N1 in the region.  It is likely that the H5N1 in southeastern Russia is closely related to the H5N1 in South Korea and Japan.

Sequence data on the H5N1 in South Korea, Japan, and Russia would be useful.

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