DRC reports its first high-path H5 avian flu outbreaks

Ducks close up
Ducks close up

Mister Frame / iStock

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recently reported its first highly pathogenic H5 avian flu outbreaks, suspected to be the H5N8 subtype, as Italy reported another H5N8 outbreak in poultry, China announced a large H7N9 outbreak at a commercial farm, and the Netherlands reported H5N5 in wild birds.

The DRC outbreaks are well east of the Ebola outbreak area and are near the country's border with Uganda, which earlier this year reported H5N8 outbreaks in wild birds and poultry.

DRC outbreaks struck mainly ducks

In a May 26 report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that was recently posted, the DRC's agriculture ministry reported three H5 outbreaks that began on Apr 25 in village birds in Ituri province in the country's northeast near Lake Albert. Officials said the villagers mostly raise ducks and that mortality was higher in ducks than in hens; 21 ducks and 1 hen tested positive for H5.

Among the three locations, the virus killed 12,756 of 20,936 susceptible birds, and authorities had begun culling surviving birds.

DRC officials noted that H5N8 outbreaks have occurred in neighboring Uganda and that brisk poultry and poultry product trade occurs between the two countries. Officials have stepped up surveillance, and investigations are planned for Ituri province's other territories.

If H5N8 is confirmed as the subtype, the DRC would be the sixth African nation to report the virus. The others are Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Uganda.

Italy reports H5N8 outbreak at turkey farm

In Europe, though H5N8 activity has declined sharply over the past few months, Italy today reported a new outbreak in poultry, according to a report today to the OIE.

The event began on May 29, striking a commercial fattening turkey farm in Lombardy region in northwest Italy. Of 17,152 birds at the facility, the virus killed 1,889, and culling steps have been initiated.

H7N9 in China; H5N5 in the Netherlands

In other outbreak developments, Chinese agriculture officials announced that H7N9, presumably the newly emerged highly pathogenic type, has struck a commercial poultry farm in Shaanxi province in the northwest, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported today.

The outbreak began on May 25 when farm workers noted poultry deaths. The facility is located in Yulin City, which borders three other Chinese provinces: Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, and Ningxia. Remaining poultry are slated for culling, and authorities have shuttered poultry trading sites in the area, Xinhua said.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands government yesterday announced the detection of highly pathogenic H5N5 in two wild geese found dead in the city of Utrecht, located in the central part of the country, according to an official statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog.

Nearly a dozen European countries have reported H5N5 outbreaks over the past several months. In earlier reports, officials had said H5N5 is a reassortment of H5N8 that was first reported by European countries at the end of 2016.

See also:

May 26 OIE report on H5N8 in the DRC

May 31 OIE report on H5N8 in Italy

May 31 Xinhua story

May 21 AFD post

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