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Wild Bird Deaths in Buryatia Signal H5N1 Move to Japan?

Recombinomics Commentary

September 15, 2005

In Buryatii is fixed the mass loss of wild ducks. According to the data of regional control MCHS [EMERGENCY AND DISASTER RELIEF MINISTRY], in Burnashevo lake in The bauntovskeye region Of buryatii the specialists Of rossel'khoznadzora revealed 123 dead birds. Their loss is caused by bird influenza, until it is unclear. Checking is conducted. The reasons for the loss of ducks will be explained - in the lake will be conducted the shooting of birds for the sampling of the blood, which they will send to the laboratory investigation. The obtained material will be directed into the Irkutsk inter-zone veterinary laboratory. Results will be known in 1-1,5 weeks.

The machine translation above indicates wild birds have been dying near a Burnashevo Lake in Buryatia in southern Siberia.  This region is just north of reported outbreaks in Mongolia and may signal the migration of birds from southern Russia and northern Mongolia to the east toward northern China, South Korea, and Japan.  Confirmation of H5N1 in Chelyabinsk has also just been announced suggesting migration to the southwest may have also begun in that region of southern Russia. 

Waterfowl from Qinghai Lake migrate to southern Russia for the summer and then move to warmed climates at this time of the year.  New reports of dead birds in both regions may reflect movement from southern Russia (see map).  Although the sequences of the H5N1 from Qinhai Lake have polymorphism in common with South Korea and Japan, the sequences also have polymorphisms from Europe indicating significant recombination with influenza from these regions,  Now however, the H5N1 is lethal and readily detected in areas that have never reported H5N1 previously.

This trend of H5N1 expansion in geographical range is expected to continue.  Efforts to limit spread in dometoc poultry on the ground does little to limit H5N1 spread via migratory birds.  The infections in long range migratory birds is particularly effective at transmitting H5N1 because even lethal infections begin without symptoms and some of the birds can fly 1000 miles in 24 hours so even fatal infections can transport H5N1 over long distances in a single bird.

The movement of H5N1 into endemic regions is cause for concern, because in some areas such as southeast Asia, the H5N1 has already been confirmed to cause fatal human infections.  In other areas, H5N1 can recombine with birds with receptor binding domains that are efficiently transmitted to humans.  H7 has been shown to posses such binding domains and H7 has been reported in Europe as well as North Korea and Indonesia.

These new reports may signal the start of another dramatic expansion of the H5N1, which has shown little indication of slowing its spread which now appears likely to quickly be worldwide.


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