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70% of Water Fowl In Mekong Delta H5N1 Bird Flu Positive

Recombinomics Commentary

August 3, 2005

Up to 70 percent of waterfowls in Vietnam's southern Mekong delta have been tested positive to bird flu virus strain H5N1, local newspaper Labor reported Wednesday.

Local veterinary agencies culled 4,620 poultry, mainly ducks and chickens, after they detected small outbreaks of bird flu in capital city Hanoi and the three southern localities of Can Tho, Ben Tre and Dong Thap last month, the country's National Steering Committee on Anti-Bird Flu was quoted as saying in the report.

The comments above are similar to an earlier report indicating 71% of ducks in the Mekong Delta were H5N1 positive.  That earlier survey sampler all 11 provinces.  This latest report indicates H5N1 is endemic to southern Vietnam.  In the south, virtually all confirmed H5N1 confirmed human cases have been fatal, including the two last week.  In contrast the fatality rate has fallen to less than 10% in the north, where another recovering patient was reported this week.

These rates could dramatically change, as birds begin to migrate back to Vietnam.  The Qinghai lake outbreak involve a lethal H5N1 that was Amantadine sensitive, but had the PB2 E627K polymorphism, which had never been seen previously in avian H5N1.  A related H5N1 is racing across southern Russia and about to spread through Europe.

These new sequences can recombine with other flu sequences, especially in southeast Asia and probably China, where H5N1 has become endemic.

It is likely that these new sequences will cause new problems in the upcoming weeks.

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