In quickly evolving developments over the past few days, Greece announced its first highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza detection, with the virus also suspected in a spate of outbreaks in Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, H5N6 and H7N9 activity sparked actions to curb the viruses in different parts of China, while outbreaks in Japan and South Korea continue to take a toll and several countries in Europe, India, and Israel continue to battle more outbreaks from H5N8 as well as other strains.
European developments span 8 countries
In Greece, tests on a mute swan found on Dec 14 in a natural park near the Evros River delta in the eastern part of the country died of H5N8 avian flu, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
In Bulgaria, one of Greece's northern neighbors, the agriculture ministry on Dec 22 reported eight H5 outbreaks: five in backyard poultry, one on a farm, one in captive mallard ducks at a nature park, and one involving a pair of grey herons found dead at a different nature park.
According to the OIE report, the outbreaks span five provinces: Vidin and Vratsa in the northwest of the country, Plovdiv in the south-central region, Sofia in the west, and Yambol in the east.
Of 4,417 poultry, the virus sickened 83, killing 73. Officials culled the remaining 4,344 birds to curb the spread of the virus.
Bulgaria's H5 outbreaks come in the wake of H5N8 detections in neighboring countries, including Serbia and Romania.
Elsewhere in Europe, several countries that have already reported H5N8 reported new detections, including:
- France, which reported highly pathogenic H5N8 on seven more farms, most housing ducks, in Gers and Hautes-Pyrenees department in the hard-hit southwest of the country, according to three separate reports to the OIE. Also, the country's agriculture ministry in more new reports reported a low-pathogenic H5N8 outbreak from Landes department, outbreaks from southwestern departments involving two other low-pathogenic strains (H5N1 and H5N3), and more highly pathogenic H5N8 in a pair of wild ducks found dead in Manche department in the northwest.
- Poland reported four more H5N8 outbreaks at poultry farms, plus another in backyard birds and two more involving wild birds (gulls and a swan). The farm outbreaks occurred in Lubuskie province in the west and Malopolske province in the south and led to the culling of 27,360 birds.
- England and Wales reported more H5N8 in wild birds after recently reporting their first cases, according to a Dec 23 update from the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The latest detections in England involve dead wild widgeons in Somerset and Leicestershire, and the one in Scotland involves a peregrine falcon in the Dumfries and Galloway council area.
- Sweden reported H5N8 in wild birds from three areas in the southeastern part of the country, according to an OIE report today. Species included a crow, a sparrow hawk, and a tufted duck.
- Germany today reported five more outbreaks, four at farms and one in backyard birds, an OIE report said. The farm outbreaks all involved turkeys, and between them and the backyard event the virus killed 861 birds and 50,453 survivors were culled to control the spread of the virus. Four of the events occurred in Lower Saxony state and the other took place in North Rhine-Westphalia state.
Asia update: China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan
Recent human H7N9 cases in neighboring areas of China prompted health officials in Suzhou, one of Jiangsu province's biggest cities, to suspend the sale of live poultry, Reuters reported on Dec 25, citing the official People's Daily news Web site.
The city of Shanghai recently reported an H7N9 infection in a man who had traveled from Jiangsu province, according to the report, which also noted that authorities in Anhui and Fujian provinces have shuttered some live markets.
Elsewhere in China, a large poultry outbreak involving the H5N6 strain in Xinjiang region has led to the culling of more than 55,000 chickens and other poultry, Reuters reported today, referencing the agriculture ministry. It said H5N6 was confirmed in Yining, a city of 500,000, and that the virus had already killed 10,716 birds.
In other Asian avian flu developments:
- Japan today reported its seventh avian influenza outbreak at a farm, affecting poultry in Kumamoto prefecture, according to an agriculture ministry report translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news message board. Initial tests revealed the H5 subtype. Japan has been battling H5N6 in wild birds and in a limited number of poultry flocks.
- South Korea yesterday announced the mobilization of the military to help cull another 1.6 million birds, Reuters reported. The new development would bring the overall culling total to 26 million.
- Taiwan agriculture officials reported four more H5N8 outbreaks at poultry slaughterhouses, according to a Dec 23 report to the OIE. Of 2,929 susceptible birds at the four facilities, the virus killed 38, and the remaining birds were destroyed. The outbreaks occurred in four different cities and all involved chickens.
New outbreaks in India, Israel
India's Odisha state ordered the culling of 2,500 poultry after tests found highly pathogenic H5N1 in crows and chickens that died, Reuters reported today. The outbreak occurred in the village of Keranga. The region experienced a similar outbreak in 2012.
Elsewhere, Israel on Dec 25 reported 17 more H5N8 outbreaks, involving 9 farms—mostly affecting turkeys—and 8 affecting wild birds at nature parks. Species affected in the nature park outbreaks included geese, mallards, egrets, and falcons, plus a cormorant, crane, gull, egret, barn owl, and buzzard.
Dec 23 OIE report on H5N8 in Greece
Dec 22 OIE report on H5 in Bulgaria
Dec 23 OIE report on two H5N8 farm outbreaks in France
Dec 26 OIE report on three H5N8 outbreaks in France
Dec 23 OIE report on low-path H5N8 in France
Dec 26 OIE report on low-path H5N3 in France
Dec 23 DEFRA report on H5N8 in England and Wales
Dec 27 OIE report on H5N8 in Sweden
Dec 27 OIE report on H5N8 in Germany
Dec 25 Reuters story on live bird markets in Suzhou, China
Dec 27 AFD post
Dec 26 Reuters story on South Korea cull
Dec 23 OIE report on H5N8 in Taiwan
Dec 27 Reuters story on H5N1 in India
Dec 25 OIE report on H5N8 in Israel