Tests reveal H5N1 in Israeli turkeys, four countries report other strains

Editor's Note: This story was updated on Jan 21 to correct the new strain of avian flu (H5N3) detected in Taiwan recently.

Animal health officials in five countries saw no let-up in highly pathogenic avian influenza detections in poultry and wild birds over the past few days, with H5N1 striking a turkey farm in Israel, marking the virus's first appearance in that nation in 3 years.

Taiwan continued to grapple with dozens more outbreaks involving a novel H5N3 strain and the H5N2 strain, with Japan reporting another H5N8 outbreak and agriculture departments in the United States and Nigeria reporting H5 detections.

Israel outbreak details

Israel's agriculture ministry said tests have confirmed H5N1 as the cause of an outbreak at a turkey farm in Haifa, the largest city in the northern part of the country, according to a Jan 18 report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The event began on Jan 14 at a fattening facility, with deaths occurring in 5 of the farm's 13 pens. Of 141,000 susceptible birds, the illness sickened 30,000 of them, killing 15,000.

The remaining turkeys were culled to curb the spread of the virus, and the report said backyard birds in the village will also be killed.

So far no illnesses have been seen at a farm housing 61,000 5-week-old turkeys that is located 350 meters from the outbreak location. No other commercial flocks are within the 3-kilometer radius of the affected farm.

Veterinary authorities reported that the area where the outbreak occurred has a number of ponds where waterfowl spend the winter and that two earlier H5N1 occurred not far from the turkey farm—one at a kindergarten minizoo in December 2007 and one in a commercial flock in January 2010.

Taiwan finds more H5N3, H5N2

Meanwhile, Taiwan's agriculture council yesterday fleshed out more information about outbreaks involving what has been described as a new strain of highly pathogenic H5N3. In a report to the OIE it said the virus was detected at 13 goose farms and one duck slaughtering facility in Pingtung County after an abnormal number of deaths were noted at the 14 locations, which are at the southern tip of the island.

Of 43,236 susceptible birds, the virus killed 17,819, with the remaining ones to be culled. Authorities have imposed movement restrictions in the outbreak zones and will boost surveillance at surrounding poultry farms over the next 3 months.

Taiwanese veterinary officials said last week that the H5N3 virus appears to be a new recombination, according to a China News Agency (CNA) story discussed in a Jan 16 CIDRAP News story. An expert quoted in the story 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 strain found in Mongolian mallards in 2010, and an H5N3 strain found in wild ducks in Taiwan in 2013.

In a related development, the new H5N3 strain has been detected in three migratory birds in Taiwan's Miaoli County, CNA reported today. The birds, called Chinese bulbuls, were found dead on Jan 14 at a location 1 kilometer from a poultry slaughterhouse, according to the report, which cited the county's Animal Health Inspection and Quarantine Institute.

Recent outbreaks involving highly pathogenic H5N8 and H5N2 have also hit Taiwan poultry, and in a report to the OIE yesterday officials reported 60 more H5N2 outbreaks affecting farms in five different counties (Pingtung, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, and Kaohsiung), all goose farms located on the western side of the island.

The virus struck 75,574 of 221,833 susceptible birds, with the remaining geese slated for culling.

Other AI reports

Veterinary officials in Japan today reported a highly pathogenic H5N8 outbreak in Saga prefecture, the country's fourth detection of the virus so far. Saga is in southwestern Japan in the northwestern part of the island of Kyushu.

The outbreak began Jan 17 at a broiler breeder farm when an increase in the number of dead birds caught the attention of farm workers. The virus killed 8 of 72,908 susceptible birds, and the remaining birds were culled the next day.

The H5N8 virus has recently hit farms in three other prefectures, Miyazaki and Yamaguchi in December and Okayama earlier this month.

In the United States, the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus has struck a fourth county in Washington state, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. The virus turned up at a farm in Clallum County, with authorities culling ducks, chickens, and geese to control the spread of the virus.

Clallum County, in far northwestern Washington, is just south of British Columbia.

The owner of the backyard birds alerted authorities after several got sick, according to the report.

Meanwhile, federal officials reported that a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza has been detected in a backyard flock in Idaho, but few details were available, the Capital Press, a weekly agricultural newspaper based in Salem, Ore., reported yesterday.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza strains have also turned up recently in other western states, including California and Utah.

Elsewhere, veterinary officials in Nigeria yesterday reported highly pathogenic H5 detections at two farms and a bird market, according to a report to the OIE. The virus hit poultry farms in Delta and Rivers states, both located in the southern part of the country. In addition, tests were positive in poultry at a market in Ogun state, also in southern Nigeria.

The virus killed 2,448 of 3,584 susceptible birds, and the remaining ones were slated for culling. The source of the virus is not known.

See also:

Jan 18 OIE report on H5N1 in Israel

Jan 19 OIE report on H5N3 in Taiwan geese and ducks

Jan 16 CIDRAP News story "Avian flu, including new strain, continues to plague Taiwan"

Jan 20 CNA story

Jan 19 OIE report on H5N2 in Taiwan

Jan 20 OIE report on H5N8 in Japan

Jan 20 AP story

Jan 19 Capital Press story

Jan 19 OIE report on H5 detections in Nigeria

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