- Romanian officials quarantined a Danube delta village
of about 30 people Friday after three dead ducks there tested positive
for bird flu -- the first such cases reported in the region.
- Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur said the virus found
in the farm-raised ducks came from migrating birds from Russia.
- And while it is difficult for the virus to spread from
birds to humans, authorities were taking no chances. They sealed off the
village of Ciamurlia and banned hunting and fishing in eight counties in
- The above comments strongly suggest that the ducks died
from H5N1 wild bird flu. The ducks dying from bird flu in Siberia are
testing positive for HPAI H5N1 and sequences have shown the virus to be
very closely related to H5N1 from Qinghai Lake in China or Chany Lake in
- This would be the first reported cases of H5N1 in Europe.
Although H5N1 was first discovered in a chicken in Scotland in 1959, the
H5N1 isolates in Europe in the past have lacked the multi-basic amino acids
at the HA cleavage site. However, the cleavage site of the H5N1 from wild
birds in Siberia, as well as those from Qinghai Lake in China had the sequence
commonly found in H5N1 from Asia in infected birds, cats, pigs, and humans.
- The quarantine of people and restrictions on hunting
strongly suggests that preliminary tests show that the bird flu is H5N1.
This finding raises questions about the lack of reporting of similar cases
in Europe, especially in regions near the Caspian and Black Seas. These
areas support migratory birds from Siberia and H5N1 was been frequently
detected in southern Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan. Now that these birds
are migrating to the southwest, moiré European countries should
be reporting dead migratory birds. The H5N1 in the wild birds is quite
virulent and has left a trail of dead birds on migratory paths.
- Extension of the H5N1 geographical range to Europe strongly
suggests that H5N1 will be distributed worldwide in the next 12 months.
The infected birds can travel long distances and migratory paths cross,
so transfer of H5N1 between species leads to rapid spread via a large number
of intersecting flyways.
- As H5N1 increases its geographical range, the opportunity
for more recombination increases. Similar outbreaks may be occurring in
the Philippines and Indonesia, which provides additional support for a
global spread of H5N1.
- The rapid spread demands close surveillance in humans,
birds, and other animals. Moreover, more samples need to be collected,
sequenced, and shared.
- H5N1 is clearly marshalling forces for a major assault
and more resources need to be brought to bear of the widening and extremely
dangerous situation. The meeting of 80 nations this week in Washington
is a good start, but a major commitment of resources is required. H5N1
has the upper hand and its spread is accelerating and efforts to blunt
the spread are long overdue.