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Chicken Culling in Iran Raises H5N1 Surveillance Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary
December 24, 2006

Head of Iran Veterinary Organization Hossein Hassani said Sunday no case of bird flu has been detected in Iran yet.

Hassani told IRNA that Iran is still among those states which are "clean of the bird flu virus (H5N1)."

Asked what was the reason behind annihilation of chickens in some of the chicken farms around the country, the official said that the Veterinary Organization decided to immediately destroy any suspicious case since the avian flu has been pandemic in some of the (neighboring) countries.

The above comments on chicken culling in Iran provide additional evidence for widespread H5N1 infections.  Although many countries deny or fail to report H5N1, the positive countries (Ukraine, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria) and sequence data indicate the movement by migratory birds is widespread and common.

The recent H5N1 sequence from a patient in Egypt had a number of new polymorphisms that was present in Qinghai isolates from neighboring countries in Europe and Africa.  The sequences allow tracing of H5N1 from country to country, which includes countries in the Middle East such as Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.

Denials or reporting failures limit control of H5N1.

Last year, after three cases were confirmed among siblings in Turkey, neighboring countries began culling sick poultry while maintaining that H5N1 was not detected.  Iran was among these countries.

Now three cases have been confirmed in the same family in Egypt, and Iran again is culling sick poultry.

Recently, the sequence of Qinghai H5N1 from a teal in Egypt was released.  Although the first OIE from Egypt was in February, 2006, the H5N1 was isolated a year ago, in December, 2005.  Most countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa did not report H5N1 until the beginning of this year, yet H5N1 clearly migrated into the region in the fall of 2005, as indicated by H5N1 detection in Romania and Turkey in October, 2005.  Subsequent isolates in 2006 from neighboring countries were all the Qinghai strain and had linkages to the earlier isolates in Europe as well as summer of 2005 isolates in Russia and Mongolia.

The same cycle is being repeated this season, as wild birds migrate into the area, and countries deny that dead birds are H5N1 infected.

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