France reports H5N1 avian flu in foxes; more poultry hit in South America

Red fox

Tim Rains / Flickr cc

Veterinary officials in France reported H5N1 avian flu in samples from red foxes, part of ongoing detections in mammals, and two South American countries that recently reported H5N1 in wild birds for the first time reported their first virus findings in poultry.

French foxes found near dead gulls

In a notification to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) yesterday, French officials said the virus was found in sample from a fox, one of three found dead on Feb 10 in a nature reserve near the city of Meaux, about 35 miles northeast of Paris. The dead foxes were found near dead gulls.

The virus found in the fox belongs to the H5N1 clade that is circulating in wild birds and poultry—with occasional mammal detections—across multiple continents. Health officials are closely watching the developments in mammals, because the virus appears to have mutations that may make it more recognizable to mammalian airway cells. A few human infections have been reported involving the clade, all in people who had close contact with poultry.

Other countries in Europe have reported H5N1 detections in mammals, including the United Kingdom and Spain, which reported an outbreak involving the virus on a mink farm.

Argentina, Uruguay report virus in poultry

Argentina and Uruguay were among the South American countries to report their first H5N1 detections in wild birds in February, and now the two countries have reported highly pathogenic H5 in poultry, according to notifications from WOAH.

Argentina reported two outbreaks in commercial poultry, one at a breeder farm in Bueno Aires province in the east housing 17,000 birds and another at a broiler chicken farm in Rio Negro province in the north that has 190,000 birds, according to the WOAH report.

Elsewhere, Uruguay reported an H5 outbreak in backyard birds of different species in Tacuarembo department in the north-central part of the country, including hens, guinea fowl, and ducks, according to a separate report from WOAH. Of 195 birds at the location, the virus killed 94.

H5N1 hits more Pennsylvania farms

In US developments, federal officials reported more H5N1 outbreaks in three states, including Pennsylvania, where the virus struck commercial farms in four counties.

In its latest updates, the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the outbreaks in Pennsylvania include two commercial turkey farms and a duck breeding farm. Affected counties include Bucks, Chester, Lancaster, and Northumberland.

Meanwhile, Idaho and Nevada reported smaller outbreaks, presumably in backyard flocks.

The outbreaks lift the nation's poultry losses to nearly 58.6 million birds across 47 states.

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