Saudi Arabia, Tibet report H5N1 outbreaks

Jan 30, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Agriculture officials in Saudi Arabia and Tibet reported new H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks yesterday, as India struggled to keep the virus out of Calcutta and Bangladesh officials said outbreaks have spread to yet another district.

Saudi Arabia's agriculture ministry said yesterday the H5N1 virus struck a farm in Kharaj province, south of Riyadh, the capital, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today. The ministry said it culled 158,000 chickens to control the outbreak.

A statement from the ministry said about 475 workers were tested for the H5N1 virus, but no infections were found, the AP reported.

Saudi Arabia's last H5N1 outbreaks, reported in November, also occurred near Riyadh, including in Kharaj, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Elsewhere, China's agriculture ministry yesterday reported a poultry outbreak in southwestern Tibet that killed 1,000 birds, according to a report yesterday from the OIE. The outbreak was detected in Gongga, where 13,080 birds, consisting mainly of broiler hens along with 400 ducks, were culled, the report said.

Tibet's last outbreak was reported in March 2007, according to an OIE report. China recently lifted a quarantine in the Xinjiang, which neighbors Tibet, according to an AP report. The Xinjiang outbreak, which began in late December, also struck a broiler chicken operation, according to the OIE.

Elsewhere, workers in India sprayed roads and markets and culled birds to prevent H5N1 outbreaks in in Calcutta, the densely populated capital of West Bengal, where the number of districts reporting outbreaks remains at 13, according to a Reuters report today.

Anisur Rahaman, West Bengal's animal resources minister, told Reuters that authorities were culling chickens on a farm about an hour from Calcutta. "We are not taking chances, as the farm reported bird deaths and preliminary tests suggested bird flu," he said.

Meanwhile, Rahaman said he has asked India's central government to allow West Bengal to seek international help in its battle to contain H5N1 outbreaks, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today.

"We need foreign help to stem the deadly virus, which is spreading at an alarming rate," he told AFP. "I have urged the chief minister to have talks with the federal government so that we can approach the United States and China for help."

Elsewhere, livestock officials in Bangladesh today reported an H5N1 outbreak in Khulna, about 87 miles southwest of Dhaka, the capital, the private news agency UNB reported, according to Xinhua, China's state news service. Officials collected samples from sick and dead birds after 14 chickens died at a home in the city last week, Xinhua reported.

With the new outbreak, 30 of 64 Bangladeshi districts have reported recent H5N1 outbreaks, according to Xinhua.

In other developments, animal health officials in the United Kingdom today released a final epidemiologic report on the H5N1 outbreak in mute swans at a swan sanctuary in Dorset County. The 21-page report from the UK Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said a genetic analysis showed that the H5N1 subtype that infected six swans closely resembled isolates found in mid to late 2007 in other European outbreaks, including the Czech Republic, Romania, and Poland.

Surveillance that followed the outbreak in swans found no evidence of infection in domestic birds, the DEFRA report said. Though the source of the swan infections has not been determined, the agency said the virus was probably spread by migratory birds that also inhabit the swan sanctuary and other nearby wetlands.

Soon after releasing the report, DEFRA announced that a seventh swan at the sanctuary had tested positive for the H5N1 virus. The swan was collected on Jan 24 during routine surveillance, and the identification of other infected birds is not unexpected, DEFRA said in a press release. Enhanced surveillance in the area is continuing, it said.

See also:

OIE reports on 2008 outbreaks in Saudi Arabia and China

Jan 30 DEFRA epidemiologic report on Dorset County outbreak

Jan 30 DEFRA press release on seventh infected mute swan

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