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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu in Whooper Swans and Bar Headed Geese

Recombinomics Commentary

August 20, 2005

No. 1 bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) Erhel lake, Huvsgel province H5
No. 3 whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) Erhel lake, Huvsgel province H5
No. 4 whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) Erhel lake, Huvsgel province H5

The above descriptions of the first samples reported to OIE from Mongolia show that H5 is being detected in dead birds at a remote lake.  Media reports indicate that one of the whooper cranes has tested positive for H5N1 and there is little doubt that H5 from dead waterfowl at the lake will be H5N1 postive.  The H5N1 will be closely related to the H5N1 from Qinghai Lake or Chany Lake.

The above data suggest H5N1 wild bird flu is migrating to the east and south  in Asia, while a separate wave is migrating west into Europe (see map).  As the temperature in the north begins to fall, more birds will migrate out of nature reserves at Chany Lake and Qinghai Lake.

H5N1 in bar headed geese, which can migrate 1000 miles in a day, is another indication that H5N1 can be transported far and wide by migratory birds.  The H5N1 in the whooper swans adds to the list of wild bird species carrying H5N1.

Media reports indicated that a relative small percentage of the birds at Erthel Lake were dead.  Thus, it is likely that asymptomatic birds will carry the wild bird version of H5N1 into areas that are endemic for H5N1.  This will create an environment for additional dual infections and recombination, which will offer new challenges.


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