Avian flu outbreaks reported on four continents

Farm geese
Farm geese

TAYLOR149 / Flickr cc

What appears to be the first detection of avian flu subtype H5N8 in Taiwan leads a long list of avian flu outbreaks reported in Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa in the past few days.

The incidents involved three avian flu subtypes and affected birds in Japan, China, Nigeria, Canada, and Germany. Media reports said Taiwan authorities reported finding not only an H5N8 outbreak but also a new strain of H5N2 virus, but they gave few details.

Taiwan outbreaks

In a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) yesterday, Taiwan authorities said H5N8 killed 3,683 of 5,200 breeding geese in Chiayi County. Officials said plans call for culling the rest of the geese and putting farms within 3 kilometers of the outbreak under intensified surveillance for 3 months.

The OIE report did not make clear whether this was the first H5N8 outbreak in Taiwan, but Taiwan officials quoted in stories from Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) and the Chinese news agency Xinhua said it was.

Taiwan's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) said the virus was similar to the H5N8 that caused widespread outbreaks in South Korea in 2014, according to a Jan 11 CNA story. H5N8 viruses have also sparked outbreaks in Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, and Japan in the past few months.

The BAPHIQ also said a new strain of H5N2 struck four goose farms in Yunlin County, where 6,000 geese were being culled, according to CNA.

The bureau said the conclusion that both viruses were new to Taiwan was based on lab tests of tissue samples collected from 23 goose farms and one duck egg farm, the story said.

The story also said H5N2 was confirmed on a duck egg farm in Pingtung County, triggering plans to cull 7,000 ducks there. Two days earlier, on Jan 9, CNA had reported an H5N2 outbreak on a large commercial chicken farm in the same county, forcing the culling of 120,000 chickens.

Meanwhile in Japan, an H5N8 virus was found in a wild hooded crane in Kagoshima prefecture, authorities told the OIE in a Jan 9 report. It said sequencing of the virus's hemagglutinin (the H5 region) suggested it was a highly pathogenic strain.

The report also noted that some Japanese farms that were involved in H5N8 outbreaks last fall are now free of the virus.

Also on the H5N8 front, German authorities confirmed earlier media reports of infected storks at the Rostock Zoo in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a northeastern state. In a Jan 9 report to the OIE, officials said three white storks died of H5N8 infections. It said 39 of the zoo's 496 birds, including the storks, were destroyed to stop the virus.

Outbreaks in China, Nigeria, Canada

In still another Jan 9 OIE report, Chinese officials said an H5N1 outbreak killed 2,371 poultry in a flock of 20,483, forcing the destruction of the rest of the birds. It didn't say what kind of birds they were. The source of the virus was unknown.

In Nigeria, a backyard poultry flock in the north-central province of Kano was hit by an H5 virus, according to another OIE report filed Jan 9. It said 1,370 birds died, and the remaining 198 were killed to control the outbreak. The report didn't list the full subtype of the virus.

In Canada, British Columbian officials reported an H5N2 outbreak in a small flock of mixed poultry at Langley, near where several commercial poultry farms were hit by the virus late in 2014.

There were 12 cases, including 3 deaths, in an 85-bird hobby flock that included breeder ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys, officials told the OIE in a Jan 8 report. The surviving birds were culled.

The report also noted that depopulation of the commercial poultry farms affected by the recent outbreaks was completed Dec 20 and that cleaning and disinfection was under way.

See also:

Jan 11 Taiwan report to OIE

Jan 11 CNA story on Taiwan outbreaks

Jan 9 OIE report on H5N8 in Japan

Jan 9 OIE report on H5N8 in Germany

Jan 9 OIE report on H5N1 in China

Jan 9 OIE report on H5 outbreak in Nigeria

Jan 8 OIE report on H5N2 in British Columbia

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