Jul 22, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – A news report from Russia today said that an H5 strain of avian influenza has killed hundreds of poultry in Siberia, though a Russian report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said the disease was still unidentified.
The outbreak was reported in the Novosibirsk region of southwestern Siberia. If it turns out to be H5N1 avian flu, it will mark the virus's first known extension into Russia and Central Asia. The virus has plagued much of Southeast and East Asia since late 2003 and infected more than 100 people, killing at least 55.
The outbreak was described as an H5 avian flu in a report from the Russian news service Newsru.com, which quoted Alexander Shestopalov, head of the zoonoses laboratory at the State Scientific Center for Virology and Biotchechnology ("Vector"). (The report was translated and published by ProMED Mail, a service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.)
"Further serotyping of the virus is expected today Fri, 22 Jul 2005," Shestopalov was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the OIE published an alert today from another Russian official saying that more than 350 poultry in Siberia have died of a disease that could be avian influenza.
Dr. Evgueny A. Nepoklonov, head of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and Food's main veterinary department, reported that the outbreak has killed geese, ducks, turkeys, and chickens in five villages in the Novosibirsk region.
"Some clinical signs allow suspecting that the outbreak is caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)," the report says. "However, some details of the outbreak are not typical for HPAI (no evident species specificity, and the pattern of spreading within a settlement)." He said laboratory test results were expected tomorrow.
According to the Newsru.com report, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said today that more than 500 birds died in the outbreak, including 300 in one district and 240 in another. Officials said no human cases have been found.
Because of the outbreak, the chief sanitary inspector for Moscow said today that authorities would stop food shipments from the Novosibirsk region to other parts of Russia, according to a MosNews.com report today.
Nepoklonov's report to the OIE said the poultry began showing signs of illness Jul 15 and began dying Jul 18. The birds were in "non-commercial premises of open type," he said.
Yesterday, other Russian officials asserted and denied that an H5 virus had been identified in the outbreak, according to reports from MosNews.com and Reuters.
MosNews.com quoted Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for Russia's Emergencies Ministry, as saying that an investigation "showed the presence of the AH5-type bird flu virus."
But Reuters reported that Sergei Dankvert, the country's chief animal and plant safety officer, would not confirm that. "The reason behind the accident could be bad water, feed poisoning, Newcastle disease or bird flu," he said.
The chief veterinary officer for the Novosibirsk region, Muhamed Amirokov, said today that samples from dead birds were being tested by several laboratories and that results were expected in 3 to 4 days, according to a Reuters report. "As of today, we have no proof that we have bird flu," he said.