Swiss find H5N1 in wild duck; India has new outbreak

Mar 27, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Animal health officials in Switzerland today said samples from an asymptomatic duck were positive for H5N1 avian influenza, as officials in India announced a poultry outbreak in another district in West Bengal state.

Switzerland's Federal Veterinary Office today said the virus was found in a duck on Sempachersee Lake, northwest of Lucerne in the central part of the country, according to a report from Reuters. Switzerland hasn't reported any infected birds in nearly 2 years, according to past reports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Animal health officials said the wild duck was a European pochard, according to Swissinfo, a Swiss Broadcasting Corp. Web news service. Authorities said an analysis of the H5N1 virus showed that it resembled strains found in other European birds in 2007.

The infected duck brings the number of H5N1 findings in Swiss birds to 33, the veterinary office statement said, according to the two media sources. The other 32 birds were found on Lake Geneva and Lake Constance.

Elsewhere, district officials in India announced today that the H5N1 virus was responsible for an outbreak in poultry in West Bengal state's Jalpaiguri district, the Times of India reported. The findings in Jalpaiguri push the number of West Bengal districts affected by a second round of H5N1 outbreaks to three.

The virus struck 112 backyard poultry, the Times report said. Samples from the birds tested positive at the High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory in Bhopal, a Jalpaiguri official named Banamali Roy told the Times.

In other developments, agriculture officials in Vietnam said yesterday they would examine vaccinated poultry in Hanoi and some of the country's provinces in the wake of reports of H5N1 outbreaks at farms that have participated in vaccination programs, Thanh Nien News reported today.

On Mar 17 and 18, animal health officials reported two H5N1 outbreaks in two districts in Quang Nam province in central Vietnam, according to the Thanh Nien report. One third of the birds in one of the districts, Ni Thanh, had been vaccinated on Mar 12, but veterinary officials said they could have had H5N1 before the vaccine generated antibodies to the virus.

Nguyen Thanh Sol, deputy chief of Vietnam's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Thanh Nien that though many provinces have taken part in vaccination and other programs, carelessness—especially among farmers—was responsible for avian flu outbreaks.

In Egypt, people who raise poultry in their backyards now seem to be heeding safety warnings about H5N1, such as advice to keep the birds in coops away from living areas, according to a report yesterday from the Associated Press (AP). The story said poultry have nearly vanished from the streets of the country's villages.

Egypt has had 47 human H5N1 cases and 20 deaths, the third highest toll after Indonesia and Vietnam, and the disease has struck women and children hardest, because they have traditionally been the primary caretakers of poultry.

"In the beginning, the people were just afraid for their chickens. Now they are afraid for themselves," Abeer Hussein Moussa, a resident of Tawfiqiya in Fayoum governorate, told the AP.

As more Egyptians stop raising birds at home, chicken production has transitioned mainly to large commercial farms, the AP reported. However, not all commercial farms conduct rigorous vaccination programs, and the government has shuttered 18 farms after finding birds infected with the H5N1 virus, the report said.

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