Denmark cites 2-week delay in reporting H5N1 outbreak

Jun 16, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – When avian flu struck a poultry flock in Denmark last month, the owners waited 2 weeks to notify authorities, thereby increasing the risk of human infection, according to a report in the Jun 15 Eurosurveillance Weekly.

The outbreak, which thus far is Denmark's only one in domestic birds, began in a backyard holding in Funen county on May 3 with the death of four birds out of 102 free-ranging poultry on the farm. It peaked May 5 and 6, when 30 birds died, and ended May 12, according to the report.

The outbreak killed 47 birds, all of which were in one flock of 50 birds on the backyard farm. Three other flocks in different areas of the farm were unaffected.

Veterinary authorities were alerted the evening of May 17, and avian flu was confirmed May 18.

In the meantime, according to the report, the two farm owners had close contact with the birds, including culling sick birds without wearing masks or gloves. They reported getting bird blood on their bare hands in the process.

In addition, the farm had visitors on several occasions during the outbreak, and three visitors bought eggs for home cooking during this time.

"Avian influenza A/H5N1 is currently not a very contagious virus for humans," the report says, "but there is a small and real risk of infection for people who have close contact with sick birds."

All the people who might have been exposed to avian flu virus during the outbreak took oseltamivir for postexposure prevention. Fortunately, follow-up with farm owners, visitors, and others who might have been at risk has revealed no signs of avian flu.

"At present," the report states, "it is impossible to know whether avian influenza H5N1 has become endemic in Danish wild birds, or if it has not, whether it is likely to be reintroduced later.

"It is therefore important to maintain timely surveillance, preparedness, and communication lines between relevant stakeholders."

Molbak K, Trykker H, Mellergaard S, et al. Avian influenza in Denmark, March-June 2006: public health aspects. Eurosurveill 2006 Jun 15;11(6):E060615.3 [Full text]

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