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Bird Flu in China Geese That Migrate from India

Recombinomics Commentary
May 21, 2005

>>  "The bar-headed goose migrates high over the Himalayas to spend winter on the Indian plains and breeds in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in May and June," said Wen Bo, Chinese director of Pacific Environment, a US-based non-government organization which has made efforts to support the growth of Chinese environmental groups for years. "Human activities have greatly changed the living environment of wild birds and affected their breeding activity," added Wen. <<

The H5N1 positive bar-headed geese fly from India to Qinghai to breed in May and June.  China now has issued an alert for the bird fly-way as well as an alert for Indians coming across the border.  Clearly the time for denial has passed.  The birds were said to be negative when first announced a few weeks ago.  Now, after the two WHO emergency meetings and the finding that Indian poultry workers in the past were H5N1 positive, new precautions are being announced.

The case fatality rate in the Indian meningitis cases is about half of bird flu fatality rates in northern Vietnam.  However, H5N1 changes rapidly and sequence data would help identify differences that affect fatality rates.

Sequencing of H5N1 from western China would be useful.  The database of H5N1 sequences at GenBank is large, although there are no available H5N1 sequences from 2005.  However, many of the deposited sequences should be made available soon.

A comprehensive screening in India, Philippines, and China is long overdue,  as is screening in affected countries in the eastern flyways that include Korea, Japan, and southeast Asia. 

H5N1 is clearly spreading and there is no comprehnisve screening to show where H5N1 is and is not. 

The failure to monitor H5N1 is still a few steps beyond scandalous.

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