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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Migration Explodes in Southern Russia

Recombinomics Commentary

August 13, 2005

In the October region of the Chelyabinsk province there is suspicion to the "bird influenza". This it is discussed in the communication of the Ministry of Agriculture RF, extended on Friday. "at present in the October region of the Chelyabinsk province arose the suspicion to the disease of birds by influenza of one populated area, located near reservoir", reports the Minsel'khoz - Ministry of Agriculture.

In the communication it is also indicated that in the Kurgan province the disease of birds by influenza is confirmed in seven populated areas of two regions, on the suspicion are found 9 additional points in four regions. "in all unhappy points are conducted limiting measures", reports the Minsel'khoz - Ministry of Agriculture.

In Tyumen' Oblast the disease established in 9 points and in 9 lakes is located suspicion to the disease of wild birds by influenza. In five of six populated areas the poultry in a quantity of 18,5 thousand heads is completely destroyed.

In Omsk region the disease is confirmed in seven points (two populated areas and five lakes) and 19 points are under suspicion. In all populated areas, including finding under the suspicion, are introduced limiting measures.

According to the data Of rossel'khoznadzora, in the Novosibirskaya Oblast is confirmed the presence of virus in 15 populated areas, in which are destroyed 56,6 thousand head of poultry. The 25 additional populated areas of region are under suspicion.

In the Altai edge the disease is confirmed in 6 points of two regions, while in 3 points of three regions is a suspicion to the disease. In the unhappy points the quarantine is introduced and the destruction of sick and suspicious on the disease birds is begun. "in all suspicious on the disease points are selected the tests of pathologic material for conducting of laboratory investigations", reports the Minsel'khoz - Ministry of Agriculture.

The above machine translated descriptions indicate H5N1 wild bird flu is expanding dramatically in Novosibirsk and points west along Russia's southern border (see map).  The leading edge of the advance now appears to be entering the province of Chelyabinsk.  The large number of additional points under suspicion suggests that there are additional unreported locations in northern Kazakhstan and the advance of the H5N1 has probably already entered European Russia.

As the weather cools more migration into Europe is expected.  At Qinghai Lake, at least 5 species were affected, but that is probably a very low estimate.  The H5N1 at Qinghai Lake was very virulent in experimental chickens, killing them with 20 hours.  Similarly, experimental mice died within 3-4 days.  Thus, it is likely that most species at the reserves can be infected, although some may be asymptomatic.  In the OIE report from Novosibirsk, isolates from 13 locations were described.  In addition to birds that had died and had H5N1 virus and antibodies, there were birds that were alive with virus and antibodies as well as birds alive with just antibodies.  Thus, non-fatal infections were demonstrated, which is fueling the spread.

Initial cases in Russia were clustered in the Chany Lakes region in Novisbursk.  Now that regions has the highest number of suspected cases for this month, but the number of cases in adjacent Omsk and Kurgen provinces is evidence for significant movement west toward Europe.

The H5N1 isolated from Qinghai Lake has been fully sequenced and the virus is clearly a recombinant, with portions of all eight genes matching isolates in Europe as well as Asia.  The HA and HA protein have changed considerably from the isolates in Vietnam and the vaccine being developed worldwide against the 2004 H5N1 isolate from Vietnam is unlikely to offer much protection against the wide bird flu rapidly spreading along Russia's southern border.  The H5N1 wild bird sequences at Novosibirsk are closely related to the Qinghai isolates.

Surveys of birds in Mongolia have begun as those birds begin migrating east and south.  In the past H5 has been isolated from Chany Lake in Novosibirsk, as well as Primorie in southeastern Russia.  These birds will also begin migrating to the south, so further mingling of migratory birds can be expected.  In southeast Asia, these birds will also come into contact with endemic H5N1 which will lead to more dual infections and more evolution.  The H5N1 in southeastern Asia has been confirmed to cause fatal H5N1 infections in humans and the newly arriving sequences will lead to new problems in the upcoming months.


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