H5N1 Spreading In Nigeria

By Dr. Henry L. Niman, PhD
"More than 150,000 birds have died recently in what vets thought was Newcastle disease, a common ailment among birds in the region."
"Nigeria's National Veterinary Institute said 40% of poultry farmers have been affected by an illness."
"Farmers in the northern town of Kano are holding an emergency meeting to try to halt its spread."
"Commercial farms have been badly affected with one in Kano losing some 60,000 chickens."
The above comments indicate H5N1 is rapidly spreading in Nigeria and killing off large numbers of birds.  This highly pathogenic version of H5N1 has never been reported in Africa, although the migratory path from Siberia to Africa suggests that many countries in Africa and the Middle East have H5N1, but have not reported cases.
The migration to Africa was predicted by the species in Siberia that were H5N1 positive.  These birds winter in Africa in a band stretching across Africa just north of the equator, where the current outbreak has been reported.
Although birds have been dying across Africa and the Middle East since October, the first report from the Middle Eastern countries was filed Friday by Iraq.  Nigeria is the first country in Africa to file.
The H5N1 in Africa will migrate into Europe in the spring and back to Siberia.  As H5N1 moves into new regions, it will recombine to create new genes and new problems.
Sequences of the H5N1 spreading through Africa would be useful.  The currently are no H5N1 sequences from Africa at GenBank or Los Alamos.
More H5N1 Spread in Nigeria
The outbreak of poultry disease reported in Kaduna and Kano states has spread to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Keffi in Nasarawa state where poultry farmers have complained of losing thousands of their birds.
The above comments indicate that H5N1 in Nigeria has already spread significantly into three regions.  Earlier media reports describe sick or dying birds in Ungowan Doka, Maduna, Kawa, and Kano in addition to the Jaji outbreak described in the OIE report.
The Jaji outbreak began on January 10, so significant spread in the area has been possible in the past month.  However, the similarity between the sequences of the Nigerian isolates and those in Siberia and Mongolia indicate that the H5N1 has migrated into the area and H5N1 is likely spread across Africa along the migratory flight path.
Thus, the location of H5N1 is somewhat established, but the countries along the flight path in Africa and the Middle East have failed to report the outbreaks.
Sequences are being generated for the Nigerian isolates and data should be released later this week.  However, sequences along the migratory path would help determine how quickly the H5N1 is evolving and trace the paths back to Europe and the Middle East as the birds begin migrating back to the north in the upcoming months.
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