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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu in Six Villages in Liaoning Province China

Recombinomics Commentary

November 3, 2005

The bird flu broke out in six towns in Heishan county which is located on the East Asia-Australia route where migratory birds used to move. More than 20 magpies and other wild birds were found dead there, the ministry said.

Experts believe this outbreak may have been caused by migratory birds, it said.
A total of 369,900 family birds within a radius of three km have been culled and 13.9 million have been vaccinated, the ministry said.

The above comments point to the seriousness of the latest explosion of H5N1 wild bird flu.  It is the fourth report out of China on outbreaks that started between Oct 14 and Oct 26.  The outbreaks in Inner Mongolia, Anhui, Hunan, and Liaoning trace the migration of H5N1 wild bird flu out of Mongolia and southern Russia.  The latest report is the largest, affecting 6 villages.  Fatalities among domestic poultry and wild birds were noted.  The prior report on the Hunan outbreak was linked to a familial cluster that involved a fatality.

Although China has stated that the human cases in Hunan tested negative for bird flu, they have no identified an etiological agent for the fatal pneumonia in the 12 year-old sister or the bronchial pneumonia in the 9 year-old brother.  WHO has asked for additional information.  The 9 year old survived, so there should be a rising antibody titer.  Confirmation of a rising antibody titer would generate the first reported H5N1 bird flu case in China.

Linkage of a human cluster to this outbreak would be cause for concern.  Media reports have described bird deaths in Guangdong, but there has been no OIE report.  The H5N1 wild bird flu from Qinghai Lake and Chany Lake share polymorphisms with isolates from Guangdong Province (Shantou), South Korea, and Japan.

South Korea has described the recent deaths of 1000 ducks, but claims the deaths were due to malnourishment.  The location of the outbreaks in China linked to wild birds and the sequence data of the isolates strongly suggests that H5N1 has already migrated into South Korea and Japan.  The proximity of Liaoning to North Korea is cause for additional concern (see map).

New H5N1 outbreaks in birds and people are also being reported in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.  It is likely that these outbreaks are also liked to wild bird migrating out of cooler regions in China, Mongolia, and Russia.

More reports of H5N1 wild bird infections in China and southeast Asia are expected.


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