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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu in Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine?

Recombinomics Commentary
December 2, 2005

sent experts to investigate the sudden deaths of more than 1,500 birds in the Crimea peninsula, the Agriculture Minister said on Friday.

Oleksander Baranivsky, speaking to 1+1 television, said the birds were found in a half dozen villages in the peninsula jutting into the Black Sea. He gave no details on the type of birds or other information.

"At the moment we have 1,621 dead birds.

The above comments suggest that acknowledgement of widespread H5N1 wild bird flu infections in Europe may soon be creating a significant increase in OIE reports.  Reporting of HPAI H5N1 in animals is mandatory, yet the only European countries to file reports are Russia, Romania, Turkey, and Croatia.  These reports describe H5N1 that is closely related to the H5N1 recently found in Mongolia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan.  The outbreaks in Siberia and Kazakhstan lie within a number of major migratory flyways that predict migration of H5N1 positive birds over Europe and the Middle East at this time of the year.

Recently, major die-offs of H5N1 positive swans in the Volga Delta and Danube Delta have been reported.  The two areas flank the Crimean peninsula (see map), so addition deaths in the areas described above would not be surprising.

The lack of reports by other European countries however is surprising.  Many have called hundreds or thousands of negative tests, yet avian influenza, especially various low pathogenic sero-types, is common in wild birds and the lack of positives casts serious doubts on the testing and reporting procedures.  Canada recently released data on healthy wild ducks which showed up to 50% of the birds positive for avian influenza and 50% of the positives sero-typing as H5.

The large due-off reported above may signal the beginning of more accurate reporting of H5N1, which would created a dramatic increase in the OIE filings.  Currently reporting is only mandatory for HPAI infections, but beginning next month, all H5 and H7 infections are reportable.


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