High-path avian flu outbreaks reported in Mideast, Asia, Europe

In the latest avian flu developments, three countries in the Middle East—Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel—reported highly pathogenic outbreaks, and the United Kingdom and Ireland reported more avian flu in wild birds.

The UK outbreak involved swans from a flock owned by Queen Elizabeth at Windsor.

H5 in Afghanistan; H5N8 in Iraq, Israel

Afghanistan's outbreak involved a commercial farm in Herat province in the country's west, according to a notification today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak began on Jan 23, killing 4,450 of 54,000 birds. The remaining ones were culled to control the spread of the virus.

Tests so far reveal that the strain involved in the outbreak is a highly pathogenic H5 virus, but the specific strain has not been determined. The country has reported a few other H5 detections this year, both in wild birds and in village or backyard poultry.

In Iraq, an outbreak identified as H5N8 that began on Jan 25 struck birds at a commercial farm in Baghdad governorate, the OIE said in a separate report. Of 71,200 susceptible poultry, the virus killed 43,300, and authorities destroyed the rest of the flock as part of response steps.

Since the first of the year, Iraq has now reported five H5N8 outbreaks in three governorates, which also include Babil and Diyala.

Meanwhile, Israel today in another OIE report said tests on a Eurasian eagle-owl found sick with neurologic symptoms on Jan 30 in Jerusalem tested positive for H5N8. The bird died the day after it was found and was sent to Kimron Veterinary Institute for testing.

The country reported a few H5N8 outbreaks in 2017, but the latest detection appears to be its first involving the strain in 2018.

H5N8 turns up again in Taiwan

Elsewhere, Taiwan, which reported several H5N8 outbreaks in 2017, reported the first appearance of the strain in a 2018 outbreak, according to the OIE.

The outbreak began on Jan 31, hitting a commercial duck farm in Pingtung County. The virus was found during active surveillance, and the birds didn't show any symptoms. All 3,136 birds were destroyed to curb the spread of the virus, and animal health officials also placed movement restrictions on the farm and will intensify surveillance at surrounding farms.

Outbreaks in the UK, Ireland

In the United Kingdom, the cause of death among Queen Elizabeth's swans in Windsor has been confirmed as avian flu, the BBC reported today, citing officials at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The report didn't note the strain, but the country has recently reported several reassortant H5N6 detections, all involving wild birds.

The report said more than 30 of the swans on the River Thames have died or are dying, making the event the largest outbreak of its kind so far this year.

Elsewhere in the region, Ireland yesterday confirmed that H5N6 avian flu in a wild bird in County Tipperary, a white-tailed sea eagle found dead on Jan 31, according to a statement from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.

Officials said the finding isn't surprising, given the detection of highly pathogenic H5N6 in multiple locations in Great Britain. It said more tests are under way to determine if the virus is the same reassortant recently found in the United Kingdom and a few other European countries, as well as some in Asia.

See also:

Feb 7 OIE report on H5 in Afghanistan

Feb 7 OIE report on H5N8 in Iraq

Feb 7 OIE report on H5N8 in Israel

Feb 7 OIE report on H5N8 in Taiwan

Feb 7 BBC report

Feb 6 Irish government statement

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