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Bird Flu Killing Geese in Qinghai Province in China?

Recombinomics Commentary
May 9, 2005

>> Local officials and state media said the geese had been dying since May 6 at the Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve in the northwest province of Qinghai.

"I can confirm these birds have died but it is not bird flu," said an official who refused to be named at the Qinghai provincial administration for wild animals and plants.

"They died of disease but we don't know what it is. We are still investigating, there are no results yet, but no bird flu virus has been found," he told AFP. <<

The failure to find bird flu is not very reassuring.  WHO has been trying to detect WSN/33 human flu in Korean swine for the past 5 months and has failed to do so, in part because of use of mismatched primers.  Similarly, mismatched primers may be generating false negatives for H5N1 bird flu in Vietnam.

In northern Vietnam, sequencing of 2005 isolates has identified a missing amino acid.  H5N1 isolates in China suggest that the 2005 H5N1 in northern Vietnam is a recombinant between H5N1 in China and H5N1 in Vietnam, raising the possibility of undetected H5N1 in China.

Migrating birds transport new H5N1 sequences each season.  Since birds from the south would be migrating north at this time of the year, transmission of H5N1 recombinants in Vietnam to various points in China is a distinct possibility.  Moreover, there have been reports of dying geese in Fujian province.  These farms are restocked with geese from Jiangsu and Jiangxi Provinces.

The monitoring of bird flu and pandemic flu in Asia has been scandalously poor, and negative data is not very conclusive, especially in view of the false negatives that have led to serious undercounts.

Identifying the cause of death of the geese and a description of their symptoms would be much more useful than citing negative data.

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