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H5N1 Bird Flu in Montana
Recombinomics Commentary
September 21, 2006

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior today announced a detection of the H5 and N1 avian influenza subtypes in samples from wild Northern pintail ducks in Montana. Initial tests confirm that these samples do not contain the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe and Africa. These samples were collected from apparently healthy ducks and initial test results indicate the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus, which poses no threat to human health.

The duck samples were collected on Sept. 15 in Cascade County, Montana, by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as part of a cooperative, expanded wild bird monitoring program. Sixty-six samples were collected directly from the birds using cloacal swabs. Samples were initially screened at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Of the 66 samples tested at the Colorado State University state lab, 16 samples were sent to USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa for confirmatory testing.

One of the 16 samples screened by NVSL tested positive for both H5 and N1.

The above comments indicate H5N1 has been detected in Montana.  Although it is possible that the two detected serotypes for H and N are not from the same virus, all prior reported examples in the United States this year have been H5N1.  Previously H5N1 was in mute swans in southern Michigan, in mallards in Maryland, and in mallards in Pennsylvania.  The report of H5N1 in Montana suggests H5N1 is widespread in the United States.

Canada has not released details of serotypes detected this year other than to indicate that the results mirror last year’s findings which included H5N1, H5N2, H5N3, and H5N9.  One report from Quebec indicates H5N2 and H5N6 has been detected this year.

However, only H5N1 has been reported in the United States.  Canada also reported H5 from a dead duck on Prince Edward Island.  The sample degraded prior to testing in Winnipeg, but the evidence from Prince Edward Island strongly implicated the Qinghai strain of H5N1.

It remains unclear why only H5N1 has been reported in the United States.  Release of the H5N1 sequences would be useful.  H5N2 in Canada had acquire swine sequences inn  addition to H5N1 sequences in internal genes.

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