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Sequencing Confirms H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Migration to Europe
October 20, 2005
The haemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes of the influenza A subtype H5N1 isolated from the duck are 100% identical to those of the virus from the chicken . Molecular phylogeny indicates that NA gene of both viruses is identical to that of A/turkey/Turkey/1/05 (H5N1 - HPAI) and therefore as for the HA gene, groups closely to viruses detected recently in central Asia.
The above comments from the October 19 Romanian OIE report clearly show that H5N1 wild bird flu has migrated to Europe. The sequencing of the N gene shows that the isolates in Romania match the isolate in Turkey as well as isolates from Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China.
The efficient transportation and transmission of H5N1 wild bird flu strongly suggests that the geographic reach of H5N1 will increase dramatically. Additional October 19 OIE reports from Russia and China filed yesterday also indicate that the H5N1 wild bird flu is migrating out of Mongolia into Inner Mongolia in China (see world map) and out of Siberia and into European Russia (see European map). The simultaneous reports by Russia and China on locations that are over 2500 miles apart begins to show the breadth of the H5N1 wild bird flu spread, which prior to July had never been reported in Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, or Romania
As the birds continue to migrate into warmer regions, the number of reports or confirmations should continue of a daily basis. The number of negative reports are cause for concern. It appears that H5N1 in some areas of Europe went undetected or unreported for 3 months. In August H5 was reported to have been detected in Kalmikya, just north of the Caspian Sea. Moreover, media reports suggest whooper swans had been dying in Rommania for the past 3 months. The lack of earlier detection is compounded by OIE reports of 3673 wild ducks in northern Iran, which had died mysteriously. Some media reports indicate that the deaths were from exhaustion.
Monitoring and testing in Europe appears to remain a problem, even in areas where suspicions are high. The need for improvement in testing is clearly indicated.