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H5N1 Spread to Tibet Via Migratory Birds?

Recombinomics Commentary
June 8, 2005

>>  China's Ministry of Agriculture informed Hong Kong that it culled more than 13,000 geese at a farm in Xinjiang after discovering that about 460 had died from the H5N1 avian flu virus strain and another 582 were sick, the Hong Kong government said in a statement late Wednesday.

Officials in Xinjiang have carried out vaccinations at all nearby poultry farms and the situation is under control, the statement said.

Fears of bird flu in China were rekindled after Beijing reported in late May that more than 1,000 wild birds, including geese and gulls, were killed by the H5N1 bird flu strain in Qinghai, another western province. But authorities said it was an isolated outbreak. <<

The above report is leaving out key nuances that keep the China statements factually correct, but misleading.  The notification of the outbreak in Xinjiang autonomous region, Tacheng district, Tacheng city was made available to the world today via a publicly accessible OIE report.  The report had all of the specifics mentioned in the Hong Kong announcement.

Based on the timing and testing detailed in today's report, China knew about Xinjiang when they held press conferences following the May 21 OIE report on 519 wild bird deaths in Gangcha County, Quinghai province.  In the news conference they indicated over 1000 birds had died, but defined an isolated outbreak by the lack of infections in Qinghai Province.  Thus, the infected geese in Xinjiang were not included in their definition of "isolated outbreak".

They also announced a mandatory vaccination program for Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Tibet suggesting additional H5N1 cases have been discovered, but not reported in Tibet.  Since the two reported outbreaks were almost 1000 miles apart, infected migratory birds are almost certainly north and west of Tacheng, which is on the border with Kazhakstan and just south of borders with Mongolia and Russia, two additional locations where bar-headed geese nest and rest in the spring and summer.

The latest outbreak may be considered isolated because it is in a remote location, but it seems quite unlikely that the H5N1 infections will be limited to the two reported locations.  Based on te timing of the latest announcement, it seems likely that H5N1 has already been exported to the three countries within 100 miles of Tacheng.

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