Avian flu, including new strain, continues to plague Taiwan

Taiwan is continuing to battle multiple avian influenza outbreaks, including some involving what is described as a new strain of H5N3, and outbreaks have also hit Japan and Nigeria, according to media and government reports.

The new strain of highly pathogenic H5N3 struck two goose farms in Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties in Taiwan, killing all 53 geese on the Pingtung farm, according to a report today from Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA). A story in Sowetan, a South African newspaper, said 2,720 geese were destroyed at both farms.

Taiwan Animal Health Research Institute Director-General Tsai Hsiang-jung said the virus represents a new recombination, according to the CNA story. He said the H5 (hemagglutinin) component is 99% similar to that of a South Korean virus, while the N3 (neuraminidase) component is 98% similar to that of a 2011 H1N3 virus from Thailand, an H2N3 found in Mongolian mallards in 2010, and an H5N3 found in wild ducks in Taiwan in 2013.

"It is certain the H5N3 detected in geese raised at farms was found in Taiwan for the first time," Tsai said.

The CNA story said 101 of 137 farms tested in seven Taiwanese counties have been hit by avian flu recently. Of the 137 farms, 124 are goose farms and house 24% of Taiwan's domestic goose population.

In a report yesterday to the World Organization for Animal health (OIE), Taiwan officials said an H5N2 virus has struck seven geese farms and one abbatoir recently, sickening 2,254 of 22,788 birds. The sites were in Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Pingtung, and Taoyuan counties.

Officials said all the birds would be destroyed and that farms within 3 kilometers of the affected farms would be under increased surveillance for 3 months.

Outbreaks in Japan, Nigeria, China

In Japan, the detection of an H5 virus on a farm in the southern prefecture of Okayama has prompted plans to cull 200,000 chickens, according to a Japan Today story today. The outbreak follows ones that forced the destruction of 50,000 chickens in Miyazaki and Yamaguchi prefectures in December, the story notes.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, high mortality at live-bird markets and poultry farms in Kano and Lagos provinces led to the detection of an H5 virus, the Nigerian newspaper The Punch reported today. It said samples were sent to Padova, Italy, for further testing and that the government has reactivated its emergency preparedness plan for avian flu.

It was not immediately clear if the outbreak in Kano state is the same as one that Nigerian officials reported to the OIE on Jan 9. That one killed 1,370 birds in a backyard flock.

In other developments, Chinese officials reported to the OIE today that 93 wild birds that were found dead tested positive for H5N1. The birds were of three species, common pochard, whooper swan, and greater scaup, and were found in the Yellow River wetland of east-central China's Henan province.

See also:

Jan 16 CNA story

Jan 16 Sowetan story

Jan 15 Taiwan report to OIE

Jan 16 Japan Today report

Jan 16 The Punch story

Jan 16 Chinese report to OIE

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