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More Gulls Die in Oulu Finland

Recombinomics Commentary

August 30, 2005

Dozens of dead and sick sea gulls were found in Oulu on the shore of Kuivasjärvi lake on Monday

The above comment indicates that the number of dead gulls in Oulu is increasing.  Unconfirmed reports suggest the total now exceeds 200, and several are positive for influenza A.  Although media reports have repeatedly mentioned LPAI (Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza), these reports have not given the sero-type of the influenza A.  The evidence for multiple infections at Qinghai Lake and Chany Lake is increasing, so the situation in Finland may be more complex than indicated in media reports.

In 2003 there was a devastating outbreak of H7N7 in The Netherlands and H5N7 was sioalted in a mallard duck in Denmark.  This reasortant demonstrates dual infections between H5 (probably H5N2 or H5N3) and N7 (probably H7N7).  Dual infections also generate recombinants, and the H7 detected in The Netherlands in 2003 was efficiently transmitted from human-to-human.

Although LPAI can frequently be found in wild water fowl, such infections are usually not fatal.  The increasing number of dead and dying gulls in Finland is cause for concern.  The H5N1 from Chany Lake and Qinghai Lake is quite virulent and can displace circulating sero-types.  The spreading H5N1 in southern Siberia and recent outbreaks (see map) north of the line of infections in Southern Siberia, support an introduction of additional H5N1 from northern Siberia.  Since many of the migration routes intersect and H5N1 can infect many species, it can quickly spread to migrating and non-migrating species in Europe, including northern Finland.

As seen in the domestic poultry outbreaks, the dead and dying birds on the ground frequently mark the paths of migratory birds (see dynamic map) that are positive for H5N1 wild bird flu.

More information on the serotypes of the influenza A positive gulls would be useful.


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