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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu on Commercial Farm in Omsk Russia?

Recombinomics Commentary

August 21, 2005

Health officials in the western Siberian region of Omsk may have found the virus on a farm with up to 142,000 birds, Interfax news agency reported.

Interfax quoted Omsk officials as saying the area would be quarantined and all poultry slaughtered immediately if laboratory checks confirmed cases of bird flu.

The quaranting of a commercial farm in Omsk is cause for concern.  Previously, only smaller farms were involved.  This one farm alone could double the number of birds that have died or been culled in all of Siberia.

Omsk is adjacent to Chany Lake, the epicenter of the outbreak in Russia.  This area is fairly sparsely populated.  However, the leading edge of the H5N1 wild bird flu migration is entering Europe (see map), where the density of birds and people is markedly higher, as is the number of large poultry farms.

The outbreaks in Russia began over a month ago and precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of H5N1 on the ground.  However, since H5N1 is being spread by migratory birds, the measures on the ground are designed to limit spread from farm to farm, such as quarantine, do little to slow the spread of H5N1 by air.

The birds at Chany Lake are now beginning to migrate to warmer regions, as are the birds at Qinhai Lake in China. Infection of birds at a large commercial farm could signal devastating infections throughout Europe, as more H5N1 positive birds fly into the area.

Although some of the migratory birds have been dying form the infection, many appear to be asymptomatic, allowing for efficient geographical spread.  The explosion of H5N1 into eastern Asia in 2004 may be reported for Europe, Africa, more of Asia, and beyond in 2005.


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