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300 White Cranes Die in Guangzhou Guangdong

Recombinomics Commentary

July 22, 2005

Yesterday Guangzhou TV's "Today" show featured scenes 300 white cranes that had died suddenly and without reason in the area of the Tianhu Scenic District. The lake was covered in the bodies of the cranes and other birds. Some locals were caring for sick birds for resale later, while some birds had already been prepared for dinner tables. A teacher sighed with emotion as he told the reporter that the die off of the birds in recent days was because the lake was so polluted and it was a sad thing for tourists who came to the area. 

The above translated comments from a boxun report add additional concerns related to a possible bird flu pandemic in China.  The unprecedented die-off of migratory waterfowl sparked new concerns, which were fueled by the WHO report on their visit to Qinghai Lake and China's withholding of important information.  Third party reports on 10 H5N1 strains in China as well as human H5N1 deaths and  military imposed mandatory quarantine.

The H5N1 at Qinghai Lake was uncommonly lethal and all isolates had a PB2 mutation associated with virulence in mammals, including humans.  Concerns that the H5N1 could be spread throughout Asia and Europe were increased by the die-off of migratory and domestic birds in Novosibursk. The deaths of 300 cranes in Guangzhou increases concerns even more.

Testing of the cranes for H5N1 would be useful as would sequencing of isolates.

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