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H5N1 Migration to Iran?

Recombinomics Commentary
December 25, 2007

According to APA, Azerbaijan has put a ban on importation of chicken and poultry products from Iran after a Bird Flu was discovered in the Republic.

Iran has started to cull out birds in Tehran, Eastern Azerbaijan and Zangan Provinces although authorities deny existence of bird flu.

The above comments on H5N1 in Iran are curious.  Although Iran has denied H5N1, the spread of H5N1 in southern Russia suggest that H5N1 is migrating into the area.  The widespread reports of H5N1 in Europe and Saudi Arabia have some analogies to the H5N1 situation two years ago.

At that time H5N1 has been confirmed in western Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine.  However, in December 2005, virtually all other countries were denying H5N1.  Turkey has acknowledge H5N1 western Turkey in the fall, bit insisted that there was no H5N1 in eastern Turkeys, even though deaths of birds were being reported.  Iran also denied H5N1.  In October, 2005, they said the deaths of almost 4000 wild birds were due to exhaustion.  The scenario was repeated a year later.

However, when three siblings died from H5N1 in eastern Turkey at the beginning of 2006 (they initially tested negative), neighboring countries, including Iran began to cull poultry, even though they claimed they were H5N1 free.

Turkey admitted that there were positive H5N1 results in November in eastern Turkey (see satellite map), and many countries began to report H5N1 in early 2006, including Iran (see satellite map). Iraq and Azerbaijan also had clusters of human cases.

H5N1 has been spreading in Rostov in the past few weeks, signaling migration into the area (see satellite map), which would put countries in the Middle East, including Iran (and Azerbaijan) in the flight paths of new introductions of H5N1.

The issue of H5N1 migrating into the Middle East should become clear in the upcoming weeks.  Jordan and Egypt have already issued alerts and ProMed suggests there have been many unreported H5N1 outbreaks in Saudi Arabia.

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