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FAO Warns of H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Spread

Recombinomics Commentary

August 31, 2005
Birds flying from Siberia, where the H5N1 virus has been recently detected, may carry the virus to the Caspian and Black Sea in the foreseeable future. These regions and countries in the Balkans could become a potential gateway to central Europe for the virus.

"FAO is concerned that poor countries in southeast Europe, where wild birds from Asia mingle with others from northern Europe, may lack the capacity to detect and deal with outbreaks of bird flu," said Joseph Domenech, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer.

Bird migration routes also run across Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine and some Mediterranean countries, where bird flu outbreaks are possible, FAO said.

India and Bangladesh, which currently seem to be uninfected, are also considered to be at risk. Bangladesh, and to a lesser extent India, harbour large numbers of domestic ducks and are situated along one of the major migratory routes. They have the potential to become new large endemic areas of bird flu infection, FAO warned.

"Avian influenza is an international problem that definitely needs a strong international response," Domenech said.

The above comments from the FAO warning on H5N1 wild bird flu spread reinforce the patterns that emerged from the unprecedented H5N1 outbreak at Qinghai Lake in May.  The initial infections were in bar headed geese, which can fly 1000 miles in less than 24 hours.  The OIE report cited bird from five species that died at Qinghai Lake.

Since almost 200 species of migratory birds visit Qinghai Lake, there was concern that the H5N1 infections would be carried into southern Siberia, where may of the birds from Qinghai lake winter,  In July there was an H5N1 outbreak in the Chany Lake area, which is located in Novosibirsk in southern Siberia.  Shortly thereafter similar outbreaks were reported in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Sequence data of Novosibirsk isolates were closely related to the Qinghai Lake isolates.  As see in the FAO map, the are several migratory paths in that encompass Qinghai Lake and Chany Lake.

The map of the H5N1 outbreaks demonstrates further spread across these major flyways, which could expand the geographical and host ranges of H5N1,

The outbreaks form one path from Chany Lake to Urals via southern Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan.  Similarly, outbreaks in Mongolia form a path heading east toward China, Primorie, South Korea, and Japan.

As the weather cools in the northern regions, the birds will begin migrating to warmer regions, spreading H5N1 as described in the FAO warning.

These new sequences can cause new problems, including recombinants with H5N1 indiginous in southeast Asia, where human cases have been reported in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.


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