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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Spread in Romania

Recombinomics Commentary

October 8, 2005

Some 460 new birds including hens, ducks, swans, turkeys and geese were found dead or killed in recent days in Tulcea county, home to the Danube Delta marshlands, which are a destination for migrating birds, health and veterinary authorities said. Authorities did not immediately provide a breakdown of the deaths and killings.

The above comments detailing the dramatic increases in bird deaths leaves little doubt that H5N1 wild bird flu has arrived in Europe.  Waterfowl like ducks, swans, and geese are usually resistant to H5N1, but the wild bird version of H5N1 described in China at Qinghai Lake as well as Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia has the unusual property of killing waterfowl.

The timing and location of this outbreak further supports H5N1 wild bird flu as infected birds from southern Siberia migrate into the area at this time of year.  There are also reports of turkey deaths in Turkey (see map) and media reports of Egypt receiving infected chicks from Germany and reported outbreaks in Iran and Bulgaria.

Although none of these countries in Europe and the Middle East have previously reported H5N1, the presence of H5N1 in long range migratory virtually assures would wide  spread of HPAI H5N1.

The dramatic expansion in the geographical reach of H5N1 increases the likelihood of additional recombination and generation of a recombinant that is lethal and efficiently transmitted in humans.  The increased transmission is clear in Indonesia and bird deaths in Thailand and the Philippines strongly suggest wild bird flu outbreaks in those areas also.  Although the Philippines have suggested poisoning by a contaminant in an antibiotic used to treat a reservoir, the use of the antibiotic suggests bacterial contamination, which may be linked to feces from wild birds in the area and the feces may have wild bird H5N1.  Thus, the association of the chicken deaths with the water does not rule out H5N1, and more testing is required.

In any event, H5N1 is clearly going global and significantly increasing the pandemic potential in te upcoming months.

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