H5 Confirmed In Slovenia
By Dr. Henry L. Niman, PhD
Slovenia has sent samples of avian influenza H5 found in a swan to Britain for further tests to see if it is of the highly pathogenic variety, the European Commission said on Sunday.
"The Slovenian authorities today informed the European Commission of a confirmed case of avian influenza virus H5 in (a) swan," the Commission said.
The area where the swan was found is less than 10 km (6 miles) from the Austrian border, the Commission said.
The above comments indicate H5N1 has also been detected in a swan in Slovenia. Similar reports in Italy, Greece, and Bulgaria have been made in the past several days. H5N1 has also been isolated from swans in Croatia, Romania, and Askatran suggesting dead or dying swans might provide an high value target for detecting H5N1.
However, swans had been dying in the Volga Delta, and Romania since August of 2005, suggesting the recent reports from European countries represent a poor surveillance system. However, the reports also indicate that the reporting countries have been surveillance than their neighbors, who continue to deny the presence of H5N1.
The same can be said of countries in the Middle East. H5N1 has now been identified in Turkey, Iraq, and Azerbaijan, indicating denials of H5N1 by neighboring countries are false.
The situation is the same for Africa. Recent reports suggest that the H5N1 outbreak in Nigeria which were confirmed on farms may have begun on January 10, but smaller farms were probably infected a month earlier, suggesting H5N1 has been in western Africa for the past two months. Some reports suggest Lake Chad as a source of infected migratory waterfowl, but countries adjacent to Lake Chad, such as Cameroon, Chad, and Niger have yet to report any H5N1 cases. Similarly there have been reports of die-offs in eastern and southern Africa, yet only Nigeria has reported H5N1 cases.
All of the above H%n1 outbreaks have been tightly associated with migratory birds carrying the Qinghai version of H5N1, which was first reported in bar-headed geese at Qinghai Lake in May, 2005. However, those bar-headed geese originated in northern Indian and India continues to deny that the wild bird die-offs in northern India are due to H5N1.
Thus, the surveillance and reporting is sorely lacking in these countries where H5N1 infected birds have migrated through and to in the fall and winter. Soon migration north will begin and newly infected birds will carry H5N1 to new regions such as western and central Europe as well as North America.
WHO has added authority for investigating infections that can cross national borders and H5N1 clearly qualifies. It is time for WHO to start demanding more effective surveillance and transparent reporting.
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