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H5N1 False Negatives in Europe and the Middle East

Recombinomics Commentary
December 3, 2005

Dead birds found dead over the past two months in the Black Sea peninsula tested positive for the H5 subtype……

Domestic fowl began dying in Ukraine's Crimean region on Oct. 18, but the deaths increased significantly last month, rising to 1,621……

"It's a frightening, lightning-fast form (of the virus)," Maria Trukhanovskaya, chief veterinary official of the Crimea region, said in televised comments.

The above comments suggest the H5N1 wild bird infections have been present on farms in the Crimea peninsula for the past 6 weeks without  OIE notifications.  Moreover, farmers have been improperly disposing of the dead birds and allowing H5N1 to incubate on the farms, which may have generated a more virulent version of H5N1.

Unfortunately, it is likely that the above scenario is not limited to the Crimean peninsula.  Romania filed an Oct 7 OIE report on H5N1 in the Danube Delta, which also is adjacent to the Black Sea.  Media reports suggest birds were dying there since August.  Moreover, a significant portion of the Danube Delta is in the Unkraine and dead birds have been found near the border with Ukraine as well as Moldova, which has acknowledged H5N1 infections but has also not filed an OIE report.

H5N1 infections in Croatia, Turkey, and the Volga Delta suggest that most of not all countries bordering the Caspian Sea or Black Sea have H5N1 infections (see map).

H5N1 infections in Kuwait as well as H5 antibodies in an Israeli linked to wild birds suggest the H5N1 infections are throughout Europe and the Middle East, but countries continue to cite negative test results on large numbers of birds.

Although there are many potential reasons for false negatives, the lack of detection and reporting H5N1 in the region is cause for concern.

New outbreaks are now being reported in the Volga and Danube Deltas and the comments above suggest the H5N1 may have evolved into a more virulent form via incubation in the domestic poultry.

Timely and accurate reporting of H5N1 in Europe and the Middle East would be useful.


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