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Fujian H5N8 Kills Four Pet Falcons In Lynden Washington
Recombinomics Commentary
December 17, 2014 19:00

One of Dan’s falcons caught a duck and then he fed that duck to a few of his other birds. All four of his falcons that ate the duck died within a few days and were sent off to be tested for cause of death. The first two falcons that died came back positive for a highly pathogenic strain of the virus (HPAI H5N8); the results on the other two falcons are still pending. His other raptors, which have not shown signs of influenza, have been confined to his property and are being closely monitored. It is unknown whether this strain of influenza can also infect humans; because of this Dan and his wife are also being monitored.

The above comments provide more detail on the four pet falcons infected with H5N8.  An OIE report described one of the falcons, which was a source for H5 and N8 sequences, which matched the Fujian H5N8 that caused a massive South Korean poultry outbreak in early 2014 and more recently has been confirmed in China, Japan, Germany, The Netherlands, England, and Italy.

This H5N8 also led to the formation of a novel H5N2 reassortant where three North American gene segments were acquired, including N2.  A similar reassortant was found in a northern pintail collected after a massive die off at Wiser Lake in Whatcom County, Washington.

The finding of H5N8 and H5N2 raises concerns that additional reassortants, including additional serotypes of Fujian clade 2.3.4, will be found.  Samples were collect at the lake where the number of dead ducks involved hundreds of wild birds (largely northern pintails) that died suddenly.  Similar die-offs are rumored to have happened at Devil's and Aloutte Lakes near Abbotsford.

The detection of H5N8 in the four dead falcons highlights the lethality of both serotypes, which share a Fujian H5.  The H5N2 in British Columbia had a IVPI of 2.96-02.98 and the presence of H5N8 in Washingon raises concerns that the H5 has already migrated south.

Release of full sets of sequences from isolates in British Columbia, as well as Whatcom County, would be useful.

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