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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Outbreak In Romania?

Recombinomics Commentary

October 7, 2005

Officials have restricted access to a village in eastern Romania after three ducks were found dead in the Danube delta and were being tested for bird flu, the agriculture minister said.

Authorities restricted movement in and out of the village of Ciamurlia and banned the transport of animals from the area, Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur said.

We discovered today three cases of domestic birds which were tested positive for the avian flu in the village of Ceamurlia de Jos in the Danube delta," Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur told reporters.

"There were three ducks in the yard of a peasant family."

The above comments from media reports strongly suggest that H5N1 wild bird flu has been detected in Europe.  Although not confirmed as H5N1, the sending of samples for testing in England is a strong indication that the bird flu is H5N1.  LPAI is not a reportable disease, but HPAI is. 

The wild bird flu at Qinghai Lake and Chany Lake had the unusual property of causing fatal infections in domestic ducks.  These three deaths were announced just after Russia announced the closing of their largest poultry processing plant in Kurgen. The bird flu there has been confirmed to be H5 and also is almost certainly H5N1.

Both of these announcements signal the migration of birds out of southern Siberia and into Europe.  Kurgen is at the base of the Urals and although the two outbreaks are about 1200 miles apart (see map), they are likely related.  Moreover, the areas between these two outbreaks are strongly suspect to have H5N1 infected birds also, although none have confirmed outbreaks, there was an earlier report of bird flu in Bulgaria. .

The detection of H5N1 on the western side of the Black Sea would signal H5N1 throughout much of Europe, even though the Asian version pf H5N1 has never been reported in Europe.  A confirmation would indicate that H5N1 has significantly expanded its geographical range and increased the likelihood of recombination leading to an increased efficiency of transmission in humans.  The increase in Indonesia has already been noted, and there has been speculation that the outbreaks have been triggered by migratory birds.

H5N1 in Europe would not be a surprise.  The H5N1 from Qinghai Lake had European signatures as did the isolates from Chany Lake.  However, in the past this exchange of genetic information was facilitated by low pathogenic strains.  The current wild bird H5N1 however has the HPAI cleavage site from Asia, which is why its migration is clearly marked by a trail of dead birds.

Although other countries in Europe have not reported H5N1, confirmation of H5N1 in Romania would likely trigger a series of similar reports from many or most of the countries in Europe.


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