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H5N1 Bird Flu Progesses to Interpandemic Phase Two in Russia

Recombinomics Commentary

August 9, 2005

Three regions in Siberia - Novosibirsk and Omsk regions and the Altai territory - are in pandemic phase two with regard to bird flu. This means that there is a high probability that humans may contract the disease, head of Rospotrebnadzor consumers' rights oversight authority Gennady Onishchenko told a conference in Novosibirsk on Tuesday.

"There is every indication in Novosibirsk and Omsk regions and the Altai territory that they are in interpandemic phase two, according to the classification of the World Health Organization," he said.

Onishchenko said that the phase means the absence of registered cases of sickness in humans but a sufficient probability that the virus circulating among birds may cause such a sickness."

The characterization of the H5N1 situation in Russia as interpandemic phase two needs more explanation.  The OIE report and follow-up media reports makes it clear that H5N1 is migrating west along Russia's southern border with Kazakhstan.  Reports on sequence data indicate that it is of Asian origin, similar to H5N1 in Vietnam, but somewhat different.  The H5N1 sequences from Qinghai Lake would fit that description, but there have been no officially confirmed and reported human cases.

Thus, it is unclear what is creating "a sufficient probability".  The above reports may be interpreted as creating a sufficient probability as could reports of bird flu symptoms in humans in Kazahkstan.

However, the inclusion of "absence of registered cases" does not exclude Russian cases with symptoms that are being tested.

More information on the factors that provide "every indication" of "interpandemic phase two" would be useful

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