H5N1 virus found near home of Indonesian victims

Jul 27, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Indonesian investigators found the H5N1 avian influenza virus in chicken droppings near the home of three people who died of the virus this month, according to a report published yesterday.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said further tests were needed to determine if the victims, a man and his two young daughters who lived in a Jakarta suburb, became infected through contact with the droppings, according to the report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"It's suspected to be the cause of the infection, but it requires another stage of examination to determine this is the case," Supari said. Officials have said they had no evidence that the victims had any exposure to sick poultry, but they lived a few miles from farms where poultry and pigs were found to be infected this year.

H5 outbreak in Japan
In other developments, Japanese officials have reported another outbreak of avian flu on a poultry farm near where several outbreaks have been reported since late June, according to a Reuters story today.

Some chickens on the farm tested positive for an H5 virus, and fuller identification of the virus was still awaited, a local official in Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, told Reuters. The previous outbreaks in the area were identified as involving an H5N2 virus, which is less virulent than H5N1 and has not been known to cause illness in humans.

The latest outbreak is on a farm with 35,000 birds, about 4 miles from where the first recent outbreak surfaced in late June, the report said. Since then, authorities have destroyed chickens at seven neighboring farms, after they tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

An avian flu outbreak reported in southwestern Siberia last week was tentatively identified as H5N2. Conclusive identification of the virus in the outbreak in the Novosibirsk region was still awaited, according to a Reuters report published yesterday.

Gennady Onischenko, Russia's top epidemiologist, said the outbreak was Russia's first avian flu outbreak, Reuters reported. He said the disease had killed 1,135 birds.

Reports from Thailand, Philippines
In a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) last week, Thailand said recent avian flu outbreaks had killed more than 16,000 birds and forced the destruction of more than 120,000.

Outbreaks occurred in eight villages in Suphan Buri province, about 60 miles north of Bangkok, the report said. Initial reports on Jul 11 had cited five outbreaks in the area, ending a 3-month stretch with no poultry outbreaks in Thailand.

All the cases occurred on farms or at other sites where traditional husbandry methods were used and biosecurity was minimal. The largest outbreak killed 14,880 birds and forced the culling of 107,120, the report said.

The cases were detected during Thailand's second nationwide active surveillance campaign, scheduled to run from Jul 1 to 31, officials told the OIE. Thailand has had 17 human cases of H5N1 infection, with 12 deaths, but none this year.

Filipino officials told the OIE last week that testing in Australia had confirmed the previously reported finding of a low-pathogenic flu virus in ducks from one location, but found no virus in chickens. Authorities reported on Jul 8 that an H5 virus had been found in ducks on one farm north of Manila, marking the Philippines' first avian flu outbreak in recent years.

Tests at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory detected evidence of low-pathogenic H5 and H9 viruses in samples from ducks but not from chickens, the Filipino report said. Tests showed no sign of H5N1 viruses in any of the samples. Virus isolation tests using fertilized chicken eggs also were negative.

Officials said they concluded that the Philippines is free of H5N1 and has no low-pathogenic flu in chickens. Further, officials said, "The Philippines has had previous LPAI [low pathogenic avian influenza] exposure in ducks, but the LPAI virus is no longer present and therefore we do not have active LPAI, even in ducks."

Authorities concluded that the original finding by a Filipino government lab of a flu virus in ducks was probably a false-positive, possibly because an inappropriate primer was used in the reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test, the report says.

Hong Kong lab suspends research
In Hong Kong, a laboratory that had been criticized by the Chinese government for its research on avian flu said it was suspending the research while seeking government permission for it, according to a Reuters report published yesterday.

In late May, the Joint Influenza Research Centre published an article in Nature saying that infected wild birds in western China might have picked up the H5N1 virus from poultry farms in southern China. The center is operated by Hong Kong University and Shantou University.

A day after the article was published, Jia Youling, head of the veterinary bureau in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, criticized the findings and said no avian flu had broken out in southern China this year, Reuters reported. Jia also said the joint laboratory had inadequate biosecurity and had not received government approval to conduct avian flu research.

A few days later, the government issued new regulations restricting H5N1 research to three governments labs and requiring labs to obtain government permission before doing research on deadly pathogens, the story said.

A statement by the joint research center said it complied fully with World Health Organization safety standards for work on avian flu viruses but was suspending its work on H5N1 while it applied for government authorization.

See also:

Thai report to the OIE
ftp://ftp.oie.int/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/infos_san_archives/eng/2005/en_050722v18n29.pdf

Filipino report to the OIE
ftp://ftp.oie.int/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/infos_san_archives/eng/2005/en_050715v18n28.pdf

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