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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu In Southern Yemen?

Recombinomics Commentary

October 24, 2005

Large numbers of chicken perished in south Yemen triggering fears bird flu, reports said Monday.

The Daily al-Ayam reported an unidentified disease is spreading quickly among birds in the province of Kabita, and cats and dogs that ate the dead birds also perished.

The paper said sick chickens stopped eating and drinking for no obvious reasons, leading to their death.

The above report extends the number of reports of bird deaths in southern Yemen.  There deaths have been reported for several days and at least one report indicated that there was a 90% likelihood that the deaths were from avian influenza.

The deaths of cats who ate birds are similar to reports out of Thailand on cat deaths from eating H5N1 infected birds.  There were also reports of tiger deaths at a zoo after being fed H5N1 infected chickens.  Similarly, there have been reports of dogs dying from H5N1 infections in Thailand and stray dogs were being killed in Romania to limit the spread of H5N1 there.

The number of OIE reports describing H5 or H5N1 influenza linked to migrating birds has continued to increase in recent days with reports from China, Russia, Turkey, Romania, and Croatia.  These reports indicate there is active migration of wild birds carrying H5N1.

Although there have been many media reports of dead birds dying in and around the Middle East, ni country has filed a report on positive lab data on H5 or H5N1.  This lack of reports is cause for concern.

The positive reports indicate H5N1 is in wild birds in the area, and the continue reports of bird deaths strongly suggests some are H5N1 positive.

Iran has filed a report on over 3500 dead wild birds in northern Iran, but failed to detect H5N1.  Although media reports indicate the number of dead wild birds is increasing daily, at least one media report attributed the deaths to exhaustion.

HPAI H5N1 is a reportable disease, and the lack of reports raise serious questions regarding monitoring and testing.  The large number of H5N1 bird migrating into the Middle East at this time of year is cause for concern.  An upcoming paper described a single nucleotide change that could change the species specific of H5N1 from avian to mammalian.  Such a change could be create by recombination between H5N1 and H9N2.  the H9N2 with the appropriate sequence is found in the Middle East, where H9N2 has become endemic.

Failure to report H5N1 positive data on birds raises additional questions regarding detection of H5N1 in people in the area.

The lack of H5N1 reports from many of the countries in the area deserves serous investigation and support to generate early and reliable data.


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