Avian flu resurfaces in Russian poultry

Jan 29, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Russia reported its first H5N1 avian influenza outbreak of the season today, as more suspicious bird deaths were reported in Japan and Hungary, where agriculture authorities are battling other recently confirmed outbreaks.

The Russian government’s agricultural watch group Rosselkhoznadzor announced today that poultry deaths were reported at three farmsteads in southern Krasnodar territory, RIA Novosti reported. Spokesperson Alexei Alekseyenko told the news agency that samples from the birds tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza.

Krasnodar is in southwest Russia near the Black Sea. Reuters reported today that the outbreaks occurred at three settlements, Labinsk, Upornaya, and Borodinskaya, and that further tests on the samples would be conducted in Moscow.

Russia’s last confirmed outbreak was in July 2006, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The country experienced its first significant poultry outbreak in 2005 but has reported no human cases.

Meanwhile, Japan’s agriculture ministry announced today its third avian flu outbreak of the season, this one on a chicken farm in Okayama prefecture, about 340 miles west of Tokyo, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). The birds have tested positive for an H5 virus, but further tests are pending to determine if it is the lethal H5N1 strain.

The announcement came 2 days after the ministry confirmed Japan’s second H5N1 outbreak in poultry, which occurred at a farm in Hyuga in Miyazaki prefecture, Japan’s main chicken-producing region, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. On Jan 26, authorities began slaughtering the farm’s 49,000 remaining chickens, the AP report noted.

Hungary’s agriculture ministry today announced a suspected outbreak at a goose farm in the southeastern part of the country, an AP report said. The ministry said authorities culled 9,400 goslings at a farm in Derekegyhaz in Csongrad County after some showed nervous system symptoms, the AP reported. Veterinarians tested the birds for a bacterial infection, but results were negative.

Also today the European Union confirmed that the lethal H5N1 virus was the cause of goose deaths on another farm in the same county, as first reported by the Hungarian agriculture ministry 5 days ago, the AP reported. The outbreak marked the first appearance of H5N1 in Europe this winter.

WHO confirms human case
On the human H5N1 disease front, the World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed that a 6-year-old girl from Indonesia’s central Java province died of avian influenza. Her case was announced by the Indonesian government Jan 25. She fell ill Jan 8 and died in the hospital 11 days later. Investigators reported that she had been exposed to dead poultry, the WHO said. Her illness was Indonesia’s 81st case and 63rd fatal one.

In Azerbaijan, health officials said a 14-year-old boy who was hospitalized with suspected avian flu died yesterday before his diagnosis could be established, Reuters reported today. The story said he was the brother of a girl who died of H5N1 disease last year, but an AFP report said the two were cousins. They lived in the southern region of Salyan.

Three initial tests indicated only that the boy had pneumonia, Anar Kadyrly, a health ministry spokesman told Reuters. He said samples were sent to a WHO laboratory in London for further testing.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, a health ministry official said today that the country is conducting H5N1 tests on samples from 14 patients, including 3 who died suspiciously and 11 who were exposed to them, Reuters reported.

Two of the samples are from a mother and daughter from Lagos who died within 2 weeks after eating chicken bought from a live-chicken market during the holidays. According to a previous AllAfrica News report, the family had slaughtered the chickens they bought after one died mysteriously. The third fatality from suspected avian flu is a woman from remote Taraba state who died after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Abdulsalam Nasidi, a Nigerian health official, said the samples were being tested at a laboratory in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

However, Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesperson in Geneva, told the AP that preliminary tests came back negative and that samples were sent to a British lab for more testing. “The early results are encouraging, but we won’t know anything definitive until later this week,” he said.

In other developments, the avian flu virus infecting people in Indonesia this year hasn't mutated into a strain that poses a higher risk to humans, Bloomberg News reported today. Georg Petersen, a WHO representative in Indonesia, told Bloomberg the WHO has not detected any alarming mutations in the virus, which has claimed five lives in Indonesia so far this year.

“We don’t see these new cases coming in January as any major situation,” Petersen told Bloomberg. “It’s too few cases to say there’s a trend.”

See also:

Nov 22, 2006, FAO avian flu bulletin with chart of H5N1 outbreaks by country
http://www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/217700/aidenews_nov06_no44.pdf

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