Germany, Taiwan, Vietnam report avian flu outbreaks

Avian influenza caused by various strains struck poultry farms and backyard birds in Germany, Taiwan, and Vietnam over the past few days, according to reports to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Germany's outbreak involves the highly pathogenic H7N7 strain, which earlier this month struck commercial chicken and turkey farms in the English county of Lancashire.

H7N7 in Germany

Agriculture officials in Germany today reported that the H7N7 outbreak began on Jul 24 at a commercial layer farm near the city of Herzlake in Lower Saxony, located in the northwestern part of the country, according to the OIE report.

The virus killed 50 of 10,104 susceptible birds, and the remaining birds were culled yesterday, and poultry from three noncommercial farms in a 1-kilometer radius around the outbreak location were also culled as a preventive measure.

An investigation into the outbreak is under way, and so far the source of the virus isn't known. No poultry or poultry meat from the farm has been sent to other locations, and eggs have been moved within Lower Saxony but not to other countries.

Besides the recent UK outbreak, the H7N7 strain has been responsible for a handful of outbreaks in Europe over the past few years.

H7N7 has caused both mild and fatal infections in humans before. Surveillance after outbreaks in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region in 2013 found conjunctivitis in three men who worked at the farms or were involved in culling.

H5N2 outbreaks in Taiwan

Taiwan has been battling both low-pathogenic and highly pathogenic H5N2 outbreaks over the past several months, in addition to several involving highly pathogenic H5N8.

In separate reports to the OIE today, Taiwanese agriculture official reported three more low-pathogenic H5N2 outbreaks that began in January and two involving the highly pathogenic form of the virus.

Low-pathogenic H5N2 turned up again on commercial chicken farms in three different counties, Chiayi on the southwestern side of the island and Taoyuan and Hsinchu, both on the northwestern side. The virus was found after abnormal mortality in birds was noted at the three facilities. Of 141,200 susceptible birds at the three locations, the virus killed 25,572, with 115,626 destroyed to limit the spread of the virus.

Though the outbreaks occurred earlier this year, the low-pathogenic findings were not confirmed until Jul 20.

The highly pathogenic outbreaks began in the middle of July in commercial farms in two counties, Yunlin and Pingtung, in the central and southern part of Taiwan's western coast, respectively, according to the OIE report. The virus hit ducks and native chickens, killing 7,113 of 22,635 susceptible birds, with the remainder euthanized.

H5N6, H5N1 strike in Vietnam

Meanwhile, Vietnam agriculture ministry reported another highly pathogenic H5N6 outbreak, this time in backyard birds in Nghe An province, in the northern part of the country, as well as H5N1 in the south.

The H5N6 outbreak began on Jul 12 and was confirmed 6 days later, according to a Jul 24 OIE report. Of 605 vulnerable birds, the virus killed 256, and the remainder of the flocks were destroyed to curb the spread of the virus.

So far the source of the virus isn't known. Authorities have disinfected the area and have established surveillance areas around the outbreak zone.

In early June the H5N6 virus struck village birds in Dak Nong province in southern Vietnam, and last summer the country reported a spate of outbreaks involving the same virus.

First reported in China in the spring of 2014, H5N6 has also hit birds in Laos. The spread of H5N6 in Asian poultry in 2014 prompted the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to issue a statement raising concerns about the potential impact of H5N6 on Southeast Asian animal health and the potential for transmission to humans.

Also on Jul 24, Vietnam reported a highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreak in backyard birds in Vinh Long province, in the southern part of the country. The outbreak began on Jul 17. Of 300 birds at the location, the virus killed 117, and the remaining 183 were culled.

The country has reported sporadic outbreaks in H5N1 over the past several months.

See also:

Jul 27 OIE report on H7N7 in Germany

Jul 27 OIE report on low-path H5N2 in Taiwan

Jul 27 OIE report on high-path H5N2 in Taiwan

Jul 24 OIE report on  H5N6 in Vietnam

Jul 24 OIE report on H5N1 in Vietnam

Jul 13 CIDRAP News story "Diverse avian flu strains hit UK, Taiwan, South Africa"

Sep 23, 2014, CIDRAP News scan "Vietnam reports two more H5N6 outbreaks in ducks"

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