Avian flu strikes more flocks in France, Nigeria, Taiwan

France's agriculture ministry today announced another highly pathogenic H5 avian flu outbreak in poultry, affecting another new area in the southwestern part of the country, raising the total so far to 66.

Elsewhere, Nigeria reported four more H5N1 outbreaks in its poultry sector, Taiwan reported 10 more outbreaks from two different highly pathogenic strains, and Hong Kong reported that tests on a dead egret yielded H5N6, the same strain that recently sickened two women—one of them fatally—in southern China.

H5N1 causes latest French outbreak

The pace of France's outbreaks has slowed since the events began in late November, but the country continues to report sporadic detections, with the 63rd and 64th outbreaks reported at the end of December in Dordogne and Gers, two departments that had earlier been affected by the virus.

The most recent update from France's agriculture ministry said the outbreak total stands at 66 today, apparently due to another detection in Landes for which no details were provided.

French officials said the first outbreak in Lot department—the country's 65th—occurred at a farm in the town of Miers that housed 260 Guinea fowl, 280 ducks, 650 chickens, and 60 broiler hens, according to an official statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog. It involved the H5N1 strain.

France's outbreaks have been caused by a new highly pathogenic Eurasian H5N1 strain, as well as H5N2 and H5N9.

A report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that includes Lot's outbreak said testing was triggered by the deaths of 39 Guinea fowl and that the remaining 1,211 birds at the farm will be destroyed to curb the spread of the virus.

The OIE also fleshed out some of the details on France's recent outbreak in Dordogne, detected after six hens died. The 194 remaining birds at the facility, which also included pigeons, geese, and peacocks, were culled.

More Nigerian farms hit by H5N1

Meanwhile, the H5N1 virus recently struck four more poultry farms in Nigeria, one in Delta state in the south and three in Kano state, located in the north, according to two separate reports yesterday to the OIE. For all four of the events, no outbreak source was found, but investigations noted poor farm biosecurity.

Delta state's outbreak started on Dec 25 at a large commercial facility that housed more than 34,000 broilers, layers, and breeders. The virus killed 7,973 birds, and authorities slaughtered the remaining ones to control the spread of the virus.

The three outbreaks in Kano state began from Dec 21 to Dec 29, affecting facilities that raised pullets, broilers, and layers. Of 15,450 susceptible birds on the three farms, the virus killed 376, with the remainder of the flocks stamped out as a control measure.

Nigeria is among a handful of African countries that have reported a reemergence of H5N1 in poultry after a several-year hiatus. Nigeria has been hit especially hard.

Taiwan reports more H5N2, H5N8

Elsewhere, Taiwan reported 10 more avian flu outbreaks, all from December. Seven involved H5N2, and three were linked to H5N8. The country has been battling both viruses in poultry for the past several months.

The H5N2 outbreaks struck six farms and one slaughterhouse in Changhua, Pingtung, and Yunlin counties, as well as Taipei City. Affected flocks included chickens, geese, and turkeys. All together, the virus killed 6,050 of 38,299 susceptible poultry, with authorities culling the remaining birds to curb the spread of the virus.

The three H5N8 outbreaks all occurred last month. They affected locations in Pingtung, Chiayi, and Kaosiung counties, hitting two farms and a slaughterhouse.

In total, H5N8 killed 1,608 of 11,391 susceptible birds. The rest were destroyed as part of control measures.

Hong Kong H5N6 detection

In addition, Hong Kong's agriculture, fisheries, and conservation department today announced that a great egret found dead on Dec 31 has tested positive for the H5N6 strain.

Officials said they will continue inspections on the island's poultry farms to ensure that proper precautions against avian flu have been taken.

China confirmed two human H5N6 infections in the past week, raising the world's total to six. Both infections involved women from Guangdong province, one from Shenzhen and the other from Zhaoqing. The woman from Shenzhen, whose infection was first reported on Dec 29, died from the disease, the Associated Press (AP) reported today, citing a provincial press office.

The 26-year-old woman had been reported to be in critical condition. The 40-year-old woman from Zhaoqing is also in critical condition.

All of the human illnesses from H5N6, first reported in 2014, have occurred in China, though the virus has also been found in poultry in China, Laos, and Vietnam.

See also:

Jan 5 Avian Flu Diary post

Jan 4 OIE report on French outbreaks in Dordogne and Lot

Jan 4 OIE report on Nigeria's Delta state outbreak

Jan 4 OIE report on Nigeria's Kano state outbreaks

Jan 4 OIE report on Taiwan's H5N2 outbreaks

Jan 4 OIE report on Taiwan's H5N8 outbreaks

Jan 5 Hong Kong government press release

Jan 5 AP story

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