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Pakistan Hospitals on H5N1 Alert

Recombinomics Commentary
December 13, 2007

The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, has advised health departments at both provincial and federal levels to be ready to deal with any untoward situation after confirmation of avian influenza virus in birds in various parts of the country.

The letter that Rawalpindi General Hospital has received from NIH says that during last two to three weeks, a number of avian influenza outbreaks have been reported from Islamabad, Murree, Abbottabad, Mansehra and adjoining areas. “The environmental sampling shows high concentration of H5N1 influenza virus which posed a serious threat to human health as well,” stated the letter.

The above comments indicate hospitals in Pakistan are on H5N1 alert.  The regions mentioned above match earlier outbreaks (see satellite map) and suggest H5N1 is either endemic in these areas, or subject to new introductions via recent wild bird migrations.

In the past, the H5N1 sequences from adjacent Afghanistan and India were related to the Uva Lake strain from the wild bird outbreak in Mongolia, which has been recently reported in Europe and the Middle East.  The sub-clade in Pakistan may have acquired new polymorphisms because of new introductions, and the confirmed human cluster is cause for concern.

Sequence data on H5N1 circulating in poultry earlier this year, as well as the new infections in poultry and patients, would be useful.

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