Denmark suspects, Sweden confirms H5N1 in birds

Mar 15, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The avian influenza spotlight shifted to Scandinavia today as Denmark reported finding an H5 virus in a wild bird and Sweden confirmed suspicions that wild ducks were infected with H5N1 virus, according to news agencies.

In addition, a sketchy report out of Azerbaijan said a dead stray dog was found infected with bird flu in Baku, the capital. The report didn't specify the viral strain. There have been no previous confirmed reports of H5N1 avian flu in dogs.

In Denmark, the Family and Consumer Affairs Ministry said a buzzard found on a beach south of Copenhagen was infected with an H5 virus, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. The story said authorities would send a sample from the bird to the European Union reference laboratory in Britain for further testing.

"We can confirm the first case of bird flu has been found in Denmark," Minister for Family and Consumer Affairs Lars Barfoed was quoted as saying.

Although this marked the first case of H5 avian flu in Denmark, a milder strain turned up in ducks on a farm in September 2003, AFP reported.

In Sweden, the National Board of Agriculture said a European Union laboratory had confirmed H5N1 virus in two wild ducks found on the southeastern coast, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today.

Sweden first reported suspected cases of avian flu in wild ducks in late February. By Mar 10 there were reports of 13 ducks infected with H5 viruses, but there was no confirmation of H5N1 until today.

In Azerbaijan, a state commission in charge of fighting avian flu reported the infected dog, according to a Reuters story. The commission was quoted as saying, "A dead stray dog has been found, and after analysis type A bird flu was discovered. The medical investigation is continuing." The commission said the dog died Mar 9 in Baku. There was no indication whether the virus was an H5 or some other strain.

The report comes a few days after the discovery of an H5N1-infected stone marten (a weasel-like animal) in Germany and weeks after reports of a few infected domestic cats in Austria and Germany. Other nonhuman species that have been infected with H5N1 avian flu, either naturally or experimentally, include tigers, leopards, palm civets, ferrets, rats, pigs, cynomolgus macaques, and New Zealand white rabbits.

In Afghanistan, authorities today said preliminary test results left them all but certain they were facing an H5N1 outbreak in birds, according to an AP report.

Testing at a United Nations lab in Rome was expected to confirm the outbreak in the next 24 hours, said Mustafa Zahir, director of the government's environment department, according to the story.

"We are 99 percent certain," Zahir was quoted as saying.

The military government of Myanmar reported it had killed 5,000 poultry within 2 miles of the farm where the country's first outbreak of H5N1 was found last week, according to an AP report today.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that Myanmar's rulers were maintaining a news blackout about the outbreak, leaving farmers worried and unsure how to prevent the disease.

The country's tightly controlled news media have not carried any stories about the outbreak, AFP reported. The only available information has come from short-wave radio and from posters that authorities have placed in Mandalay's markets, where poultry vendors have been banned, the story said.

A farmer named Shi, who has 750 chickens on the outskirts of Mandalay, said officials had given her no information about bird flu and no instructions on what to do with her chickens, according to AFP.

"I still don't know what the symptoms of bird flu are, so how can I know if my chickens will die of bird flu?" Shi was quoted as saying.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, researchers announced the launching of a study in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia on the dosage of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) given to bird flu patients, according to the AP.

Many countries are stockpiling oseltamivir in the hope that it will help protect people if the H5N1 virus evolves into a human pandemic strain. However, as noted in the AFP report, the virus has shown resistance to the drug in a few cases in Vietnam. The report gave no details on what the study involves.

According to a study published last December, a Vietnamese girl died of avian flu even though she began receiving oseltamivir within the first 2 days of illness, the recommended window for effective treatment. The authors of the study said that a higher dosage of the drug or longer treatment course might be needed to ensure effectiveness.

See also:

Dec 22, 2005, CIDRAP News story "Tamiflu resistance in avian flu victims sparks concern"

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