Kuwait has become the latest country to report its first highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza outbreak, as it and other avian flu viruses spread to more parts of Europe, with Bangladesh reporting its first H5N1 detections in about a year.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, said that, since November, nearly 40 countries have reported fresh outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu in wild birds our poultry, adding that rapid expansion and number of cocirculating strains have the WHO on high alert. "I am asking countries to keep a close watch over outbreaks of avian influenza in birds and related human cases," she said. (See related story today.)
Kuwait reports first H5N8 outbreak
Kuwait's H5N8 outbreak occurred in backyard birds, including ducks, geese, and pheasants in a city in Al Jahra governorate, in the east central part of the country, the agriculture ministry said in a report today to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The outbreak began on Dec 12 when residents notices clinical illness and deaths in the birds. Initial tests revealed H5, which triggered the culling of the birds. Tests at the OIE reference laboratory in the United Kingdom on Jan 20 confirmed the H5N8 subtype. The virus killed 144 of 285 birds.
Over the past few months three other countries in the Middle East have reported H5N8 outbreaks: Egypt, Iran, and Israel.
H5N8 hits Italian farm; H5N5 in German poultry
Meanwhile, Italy reported an H5N8 outbreak at a turkey farm in the Veneto region, its first outbreak in a farm after finding the virus in wild birds earlier this month, an OIE report said today. The event began on Jan 20 when authorities noticed increased mortality over the past few days. The virus killed 600 of 20,500 birds.
Authorities are stamping out the remaining turkeys and have imposed protection and surveillance zones around the facility.
Elsewhere, German media reports citing the country's agriculture ministry said the highly pathogenic H5N5 strain has been detected at a commercial farm in Schleswig-Holstein state in the northern part of the country, according to reports posted and translated by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog. The German outbreak appears to be the first farm-related H5N5 outbreak, though the virus has been recently detected in wild birds in the Netherlands, Montenegro, and Italy.
Bangladesh: H5N1 in poultry, house crows
In Bangladesh, veterinary officials confirmed highly pathogenic H5N1 in the deaths of 17 house crows on a medical college campus in Rajshahi division in the west, according to a Jan 21 OIE report. The country's previous H5N1 outbreak occurred last February and also involved crows in Rajshahi division.
The outbreak is ongoing, and authorities are conducting surveillance at the affected area and nearby poultry farms.
In addition, a poultry outbreak began on Jan 15, striking 15-week-old poultry at a farm in Dhaka, the country's capital. The virus killed 732 of 3,000 birds, and authorities destroyed the remaining ones to prevent further disease spread.
Jan 23 OIE report H5N8 in Kuwait
Jan 23 Margaret Chan speech
Jan 23 OIE report on H5N8 in Italy
Jan 23 Avian Flu Diary post
Jan 21 OIE report on H5N1 in Bangladesh house crows
Jan 21 OIE report on H5N1 in Bangladesh poultry