China confirms another H5N1 outbreak in birds

May 21, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – More than 11,000 birds died in China's latest avian influenza outbreak this weekend, Reuters News reported today, and another 53,000 birds were culled to bring the outbreak in the southern province of Hunan under control, according to China's Ministry of Agriculture.

The country's last outbreak in March in Lhasa, Tibet, killed 680 chickens at a poultry market; about 7,000 birds were culled. In the same month, a 16-year old boy also died from H5N1 in Anhui province. So far, there have been 15 human avian flu fatalities in the country.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh continues to deal with a significant avian flu outbreak. The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, reported that over the weekend officials ordered 8,000 birds in Domar district killed, while another 6,000 had been culled on May 10 and May 17 in Jaldhaka.

According to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) news report, the virus has spread to 11 out of 64 provinces since February and the country needs a long-term strategic plan to keep the virus in check. The country has already had 12 outbreaks, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

While Bangladesh has prepared a national avian influenza and human pandemic preparedness plan, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer, Joseph Domenech, said the current situation remains of serious concern and requires further national engagement and coordinated international support.

"[T]here is an urgent need for vigorously stepping up and extending current H5N1 control campaigns in order to prevent the virus becoming widely entrenched," Domenech said in the FAO report.  

Bangladesh has about 270 million chickens and 27 million ducks. The FAO had several recommendations that include culling at full scale and controlling the movement of people, animals, and goods in affected areas as well as establishing minimum hygiene standards at slaughter points in live bird markets. In addition to targeted vaccination and improving the capacity of veterinary laboratories, FAO's recommendations include the country's initiating public awareness campaigns and developing a scheme to encourage reporting of outbreaks.

And in Ghana, analysis of an avian flu strain isolated from an outbreak there revealed that the strain is closely related to other isolates from sub-Saharan countries, such as Ivory Coast, Sudan, and Burkina Faso, according to an OIE report.

Dr. Bernard Vallat, OIE's director-general, said the similarity in the isolates indicates that there had been no introduction of a new strain to Ghana. The country, which is the ninth in Africa to be affected, reported its first avian flu outbreak in April.

A note posted on ProMED-mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, stated that the findings would confirm Ghana's claim that the virus's origin was regional and possibly from illegal importation of birds for sale, and not due to migratory birds.

See also:

FAO article "Bird flu outbreaks in Bangladesh require long-term strategic response"
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000562/index.html

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