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H5 Wild Bird Flu in Crimea Peninsula More Lethal?

Recombinomics Commentary
December 3, 2005

"The virus is behaving differently than in Russia and Romania," Ukraine's neighbors where bird flu has also been detected, said Mr Verbitsky.

"The sickness passes without any symptoms," he said. "In the evening the birds are healthy and in the morning they are dead."

The above comments raise the possibility that the H5N1 wild bird flu detected in the Crimea has become more virulent.  The H5N1 wild bird flu at Qinghai Lake was characterized as being very virulent in experimental animals, killing chickens in less than 20 hours and mice in 3-4 days. Boxun reports indicated that the Qinghai version was also killing humans, but this aspect was denied by China.

This summer there were outbreaks of H5N1 wild bird flu in Russia as well as Kazakhstan and Mongolia.  The most complete sequence data made public has been on the Russian isolates, and they are closely related and have PB2 E627K.  However, there are some differences, including the European swine sequences, also on PB2.  Recent animal tests have indicated the Russian versions were not as lethal to polecats or ferrets as the Asian version.

One of the characteristics of H5N1 in southeast Asia is the sudden death of poultry, similar to the description above.

More information on the sequences from the isolates on the Crimea peninsula would be useful.


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