Spread of avian flu noted in China, Korea, Europe

New reports from China and South Korea today paint a picture of spreading H5N6 avian flu in birds in Asia, while Hungary, Poland, and France report more farm outbreaks involving the H5N8 strain.

Culling campaign in China

According to FluTrackers, an infectious disease message board, the detection of H5N6 in China's Sichuan province has triggered the culling of 38,000 poultry.

The country's Ministry of Agriculture said a highly pathogenic avian flu outbreak in poultry in Mianzhu was detected on Dec 7 after several thousands of sick chickens raised suspicions of avian flu, according to a China News Network story translated by FluTrackers. On Dec 12, the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory confirmed the highly pathogenic H5N6 subtype. As of today, the outbreak is considered under control, officials said.

One day after Macau said it was halting importation of poultry from mainland China because of H7 detection in birds, officials there now report that a 58-year-old asymptomatic man who represents the island's first H7N9 case and his wife are quarantined, the South China Morning Post reported. According to news reports, the man owned a poultry stall where two samples of poultry tested positive for H7N9.

None of the man's chickens were sold at the market, and authorities have begun to disinfect the market and cull the remaining 10,000 birds.

Meanwhile, Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease tracking blog, said South Korea released several government reports today related to its H5N6 outbreaks. Most notably, genetic analysis has shown that the H5N6 strain circulating in the nation is similar to the strain prevalent in Guangdong province and Hong Kong, China.

The reports suggest the virus is likely spreading to farms via wild birds, farm workers, and agricultural vehicles and equipment.

AFD also notes a Korean Times story that suggests a chicken farm in Sejong may have sold infected eggs and poultry to markets, which could account of the rapid spread of the disease in South Korea. According to the news story, at least 100,000 chickens were sold in two provinces just 2 days before the farm reported avian flu activity to authorities Nov 26. The farm eventually culled 700,000 chickens.

More poultry farms in Europe hit

H5N8 activity in Europe, meanwhile, shows no signs of slowing.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today posted a report detailing 39 outbreaks of H5N8 in Hungary, all but 2 of them on poultry farms. Yesterday the central European country reported 33 outbreaks involving more than 300,000 animals. Today an additional 222,451 susceptible ducks and geese were reported to the OIE.

Many of the farms are located in Szank, the same southern region of the country where outbreaks were reported yesterday.

Also today, the OIE said a poultry farm in western Poland is reporting that H5N8 has killed 275 poultry. The outbreak began on Dec 12, and a total of 37,123 birds were culled at the farm, located in Glinik.

And in a report posted late yesterday by the OIE, French officials detailed six new H5N8 outbreaks on five farms and in one backyard flock in southern France. The outbreaks affected 7,850 poultry, including foie gras ducks. The virus killed 140 birds, and 950 more were culled to contain the outbreaks.

In discussing the ongoing H5N8 outbreaks in Europe, infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, said, "This is really a wake-up call to see if modern biosecurity is working. The entire poultry industry is at risk."

Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, publisher of CIDRAP News.

In addition to the outbreaks in poultry, the OIE reported detections of H5N8 in wild birds in Germany and Switzerland.

See also:

Dec 14 FluTrackers China report

Dec 14 South China Morning Post story

Dec 14 AFD South Korea post

Dec 14 OIE Hungary report

Dec 14 OIE Poland report

Dec 13 OIE France report

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