Jul 7, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Spain today became the latest country to join the list of nations responding to outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza, as officials reported finding the virus in a wild bird.
In a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Spanish officials said highly pathogenic H5N1 strain had been confirmed in a sample taken from a great crested grebe that was found dead Jun 30 in the Salburua wetlands in Alava province. The diagnosis was established by the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Algete.
To control the outbreak, a 3-kilometer protection zone around the site has been established, and surveillance will be conducted within 10 km. Authorities have banned movement of poultry and hunting of wild birds within the zone and are monitoring natural areas for any further bird deaths.
Spain is the 14th European Union member to report H5N1 avian flu in birds, on the basis of information from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
An outbreak of avian influenza is a particular concern in Spain because, according to a Bloomberg News report today on the outbreak, Spain is Europe’s biggest tourist destination.
In other avian flu developments this week:
- Canadian authorities reported that final virological tests on samples from a dead gosling were negative.
- The OIE announced that avian influenza had recurred among ostriches in South Africa.
- Thailand said it hoped to be free of avian influenza in 3 years.
Canada ends testing of Prince Edward Island birds
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced Jul 5 that further testing related to a suspected H5 avian flu outbreak in Prince Edward Island had revealed no evidence of the virus.
Authorities had announced Jun 16 that preliminary tests had indicated an H5 virus in a gosling, one of four birds that had died in a backyard flock. The positive test led authorities to destroy the rest of the flock and raised concern about the threat of H5N1 spreading to North America. But officials reported on Jun 20 that further tests at Canada's avian flu reference laboratory in Winnipeg, Man., were negative.
In the latest announcement, the CFIA said attempts to culture the virus from samples from the gosling had failed. The agency said testing was finished, and a quarantine on the affected site was lifted.
South African ostriches have H5N2 virus
An H5N2 strain of avian flu has been confirmed on an ostrich farm in South Africa, according to a report that officials filed with the OIE. The virus was identified Jul 1 in eight ostriches on the farm in Riversdale, Western Cape province.
In his notice to the OIE, South Africa's senior manager of animal health, Bothe Modisane, said surveillance indicated that the outbreak was probably limited to the farm where the disease was detected. He reported that the farm was quarantined and that all 58 ostriches there were destroyed on Jul 1. Culling of all other poultry on the farm was completed on Jul 3. The source of the infection was not known.
In 2004, a similar outbreak of H5N2 in ostriches stopped all poultry exports from South Africa. That outbreak killed 2,000 ostriches on two farms, and officials planned to destroy 6,000 remaining ostriches on the farms.
Highly pathogenic strains of H5N2 virus have caused a number of past outbreaks in birds, though none in humans. H5N2 viruses were blamed for outbreaks in Pennsylvania (1983-85), Mexico (1994-95), Italy (1997), Texas (2004), and South Africa (2004), according to the World Health Organization. In addition, Japan had H5N2 outbreaks in poultry in 2005.
Thai official offers optimistic projection
Thailand’s agriculture minister said yesterday the country hopes to be completely free of avian influenza virus in 3 years. The Thai official, Sudarat Keyuraphan, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the country has gone 239 days without an outbreak.
"If we are able to control the virus for the rest of this year, we will have fewer worries next year, and I am confident that Thailand will be free from the bird flu virus within three years,” Keyuraphan told AFP. She said the 239-day outbreak-free stretch is notable, given that surrounding countries continue to report the disease.
According to the AFP report, Thailand has recruited 900,000 volunteers to help with prevention efforts, including regularly spraying disinfectant around poultry farms.
In May 2005, Thai officials declared the country free of the H5N1 virus, but more poultry outbreaks were reported the following July, and new human cases emerged in the fall.
Jul 7 OIE report on avian influenza in Spain
Jun 21 CIDRAP News article "Further tests show no avian flu in Canadian flock"
Jul 3 OIE report on avian influenza in South Africa
Aug 6, 2004, CIDRAP News article "Avian flu hits ostriches in South Africa"
May 5, 2005, CIDRAP News article on Thailand's avian flu battle