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H5 Wild Bird Flu In 24 Percent of Wild Ducks in British Columbia

Recombinomics Commentary

November 1, 2005

Samples from 704 birds found 24 percent tested positive for strains of the H5 subtype of avian influenza. None is believed to be the H5N1 strain that officials fear will infect humans, but more tests to identify the strains are being conducted.

Finding 24% of the wild birds samples in British Columbia to be H5 positive is quite remarkable and strongly suggests the infections are H5N1 wild bird flu.  Although comments on pathogenicity are made, there data no data on the HA cleavage site, which would quickly determine if these birds are infected with H5N1 from Asia, which has a characteristic RRRKKR sequence. H5N1 frequently causes asymptomatic infections in waterfowl, even though the H5N1 is HPAI and contains the RRRKKR sequence at the HA cleavage site.

Prior testing of wild birds in Canada indicates the H5 serotype is extremely rare, so finding 24% positive for H5 is cause for concern.  H5 serotypes were also found in Manitoba and Quebec, but the number of birds sampled were not reported.

Sequencing of the HA cleavage site would be useful.


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