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NWHC Avian Influenza News
The latest news about Avian Influenza.

  • Avian Influenza in Wild AnimalsBulgaria (HPAI H5N8)Highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza was detected on a mute swan that died on February 9, 2017 in Plovdiv province, Bulgaria. The highly pathogenic H5N8 virus was not confirmed until May 9 2017.The source of the outbreak is unknown. The virus was first detected in Bulgaria on July 1, 2015 and the outbreak is considered to be resolved as of February 9, 2017. Avian Influenza in PoultryChina (HPAI H7N9)Highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza was detected on February 23, 2017 in the Hunan and Guangdong provinces of China. The event is considered ongoing and currently 911 birds have been culled due to the virus. The source of the outbreak is considered unknown. The outbreaks were discovered through active surveillance and controls measures include screening, quarantine, stamping out, disinfection, and vaccination prohibition. Germany (HPAI H5N8)Highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza was detected on May 10, 2017 in Schieder-Schwalenberg in the state of North Rhine-Westfalia, Germany. The outbreak resulted in the death of 10 deaths and the culling of 3 chickens in a backyard flock. The source of the outbreak is unknown is considered ongoing. Control measures applied include screening, disinfection, traceability, quarantine, stamping out, surveillance outside containment, official destruction of animal products, official disposal of carcasses, vaccination prohibition, zoning, and no treatment of affected animals. Libya (LPAI H7)Low pathogenic H7 avian influenza was detected on May 16, 2017 in Libya. The virus resulted in the death of one bird and the culling of an additional 19. The source of the outbreak is believed to be contact with wild species as the report noted migratory birds were seen a month ago in the area. Control measures applied include screening, quarantine, stamping out, zoning, disinfection, vaccination prohibition, and no treatment of affected animals. Russia (HPAI H5N8)Highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza was detected in the republic of Tartarstan. The outbreak started on May 3, 2017 and has resulted in the death of 5,202 birds with over 447,800 believed to be susceptible to the virus. The source of the outbreak is currently unknown and is considered to be ongoing. Control measures applied include movement control inside the country, screening, quarantine, official disposal of carcasses, and control of wildlife reservoirs, vaccination prohibition, and no treatment of affected animals. Taiwan (HPAI H5)Highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza was reported in Taipei, Taiwan on May 8, 2017. It is reported that five batches of chickens from a wholesale poultry market tested positive for the virus. The chickens originated from farms in Kaohsiung's Mituo District, Miaoli County's Tongxiao Township, Pingtung County's Jhutian Township, and Yunlin County's Yuanchang Township. The government has ordered the culling of 304 chickens after detecting the strain. The public is urged to not purchase poultry that bears no safety certification marks. UK (HPAI H5N8)Highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza was reported on a small farm in Lancashire, England. The flock of nine birds have all died or been culled. A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone have been created in order to limit the risk of the disease spreading from the farm. Public Health England said the risk to public health from the virus is very low and it does not pose a food safety risk. Vietnam (HPAI H5N1)Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza was detected in the Dak Lak province of Vietnam on February 2, 2017. The outbreak is a recurrence of a previous event first reported in October, 2016. The virus resulted in the death of 550 birds and the culling of an additional 3,457. The source of the outbreak is unknown and is considered to be resolved. Control measures applied include vaccination in response to the outbreak, stamping out, disinfection, and no treatment of affected animals. Avian Influenza in HumansChina (H7N9)Highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza human infection in 24 individuals has been laboratory-confirmed in China on May 5, 2017. Of the total 24 patients, nine were female. Ages ranged from 25 to 82 years old. Exposure to poultry or the live poultry market was confirmed in 19 of the cases. Currently, nine of the patients diagnosed have died. The Chinese government is taking measures to combat the spread of the virus. Measures include strengthening risk assessment and guidance prevention, conducting detailed investigations to inform prevention measures, and strengthen virology surveillance to better understand levels of virus contamination and mutations.

  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Update: National Surveillance and Recent Wild Bird Detections
    Since the December 2014 detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in wild birds and poultryin the United States and Canada, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) has continued to workclosely with the USDA-Animal Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services, the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService, and state wildlife agencies to implement enhanced mortality investigations and surveillance in wild birds.For background, see NWHC bulletins on Detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses H5N2 andH5N8 in Wild Birds of the United States, Detection of Novel Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses in WildBirds, and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Found in the Central United States.For an up-to-date summary of positive results from combined federal and state agency HPAI surveillance in wildbirds please view this table: Wild Bird HPAI Cases in the U.S. For positive surveillance results of HPAI inpoultry and captive wild birds in the United States please see the resources provided by the USDA: AvianInfluenza Disease.Recent HPAI Detections in Wild BirdsThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MI DNR) recently announced detections of HPAI H5 and H5N2in Canada geese (Branta canadensis) in suburban Detroit, Michigan. HPAI was detected in 12 geese (10juveniles, one yearling, and one adult) that were found sick (clinical signs included head tremors, persistent headtilt to the side or back, and seizures) or dead from late-May through mid-June 2015. Pathological examinationsconducted by the MI DNR and the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicines DiagnosticCenter for Population and Animal Health strongly suggested that HPAI was the cause of, or contributed to,sickness and death in these birds. Concurrently, 186 apparently healthy Canada geese from the same area weretested for avian influenza viruses during goose population control activities and no HPAI was identified. Bloodwas collected from these geese to test for evidence of exposure to HPAI and results are pending.The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently reported detection of HPAI H5 in a black-cappedchickadee (Poecile atricapilus) in Ramsey County, Minnesota. The bird was displaying signs of neurologicalimpairment and was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center on June 10, 2015 where it was immediatelyeuthanized. The bird was necropsied at the University of Minnesota and HPAI was confirmed at the USDANational Veterinary Services Laboratories. Additional chickadees displaying signs of neurological impairmenthave also been submitted to this rehabilitation facility and no other birds have tested positive for HPAI at thistime.Field Observations to DateThe recent HPAI detections demonstrate that HPAI is present in resident wild birds during the summer.Transmission of avian influenza viruses, including HPAI, will likely begin to occur more frequently in the latesummer and early autumn due to recruitment of nave young-of-the-year wild waterfowl into populations,decreasing temperatures in the north, and increasing waterfowl densities at staging areas and during earlymigration. Consequently, it is important that wildlife managers continue to be alert for morbidity and mortality inwild birds and immediately report observations to state or federal wildlife health professionals. Continued surveillance for HPAI in wild birds will facilitate early detection, situational awareness, and appropriate responseto these viruses.HPAI in wild birds was initially detected in wild ducks (northern pintail, Anus acuta; mallards, A. platyrhynchos;and American wigeon, A. americana) from a waterfowl mortality event at Wiser Lake, Whatcom County,Washington attributed to aspergillosis that the NWHC investigated in collaboration with the WashingtonDepartment of Fish and Wildlife. It is not clear whether HPAI infection can result in significant disease in wildducks. However, the detection of HPAI in apparently healthy hunter-harvested wild ducks indicates that they canbe actively infected without exhibiting obvious signs of illness. Active infection of HPAI has been confirmed inmultiple Canada geese, including the recent detections in Southeastern Michigan, and has been associated withneurologic impairment (swimming in circles, twisted necks, tremors) prior to euthanasia or death.Some raptor species appear to be highly vulnerable to HPAI virus infection. Several captive falcons that werereportedly fed meat from HPAI-infected waterfowl became ill and died rapidly. Raptor species from which HPAIhas been detected thus far include red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Coopers hawk (Accipiter cooperii),captive gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus), peregrine falcon (F. peregrinus), captive great-horned owl (Bubovirginianus), snowy owl (B. scandiacus), and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Testing of various tissuesfrom these raptors identified HPAI infection as causing or contributing to their deaths. However, it is not yet clearwhether HPAI infected raptors have a high disease mortality rate (i.e., number of infected raptors that die fromHPAI compared to number of raptors at risk).State and federal authorities with regulatory oversight of wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife exhibition, and falconrymay wish to consider contacting permit holders to caution them against feeding wild game, especially wildwaterfowl, to raptors and other captive birds. Authorities should also encourage implementation of biosecuritypractices to eliminate contact between captive and wild birds and maintain vigilance for raptors and other avianspecies showing neurologic signs of disease, as this may indicate potential infection with HPAI. Wildlifemanagement agencies that regulate waterfowl propagation for release may want to consider HPAI screening ofbirds prior to release. Birds showing neurological signs or acute changes in behavior should be immediatelyisolated from other birds. In addition, wildlife biologists and agency staff should exercise careful field hygiene(e.g., hand washing and disinfection of equipment and clothing) after visiting wetlands or when handlingwaterfowl or their tissues (see below for details).National Surveillance for HPAI in Wild BirdsThe NWHC is a member of the Interagency Steering Committee for Surveillance for Highly Pathogenic AvianInfluenza in Wild Birds and, in this role, is accepting swab samples from live birds and hunter-harvested birdsthat are collected by agency partners in the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways participating in this surveillance. Seethis link for a copy of the plan: Interagency Strategic Plan for Early Detection and Monitoring for AvianInfluenzas of Significance in Wild Birds.The NWHC also continues to monitor for HPAI viruses by testing dead birds submitted for diagnostic evaluation(nationwide) and is a leading partner in mortality and morbidity investigation and diagnostics within theInteragency Strategic Plan. Mortality investigation will maximize early detection of HPAI in wild birds and willincrease understanding of the spatial extent and species involvement. Wildlife managers should remain vigilantfor wild bird morbidity and mortality events and continue to contact NWHC to discuss submission and testing ofcarcasses from events that meet the expanded criteria described below. Note that the following is not an allinclusivelist of cases accepted by the NWHC (see standard NWHC Submission Guidelines). Wildlifemanagement agencies that investigate morbidity and mortality events independently or in collaboration with otherdiagnostic laboratories are strongly encouraged to report these events to the NWHC using our reporting form sothat information can be captured on a national scale and displayed on WHISPers, a wildlife health informationsharing website, to increase situational awareness.Expanded submission criteria for HPAI diagnostics: Any mortality involving wild bird species where estimated dead exceeds 500 birds. Mortality involving wild birds of any species in close proximity to facilities harboring domestic birds inwhich HPAI has been detected. Mortality involving gallinaceous birds such as wild turkeys, quail, and sage grouse. Mortality involving 5+ waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans) or other water birds (loons, grebes, coots,shorebirds, or wading birds such as egrets, herons, or cranes). Mortality involving any number of raptors, waterfowl, or avian scavengers (ravens, crows, or gulls)observed in the same or adjacent counties to confirmed HPAI in poultry or wild birds. Mortality involving any number of raptors or avian scavengers (ravens, crows or gulls) near locations withon-going waterfowl mortality. Mortality involving raptors, waterfowl, or avian scavengers (ravens, crows, or gulls) observed with clinicalsigns consistent with neurological impairment, which may include swimming or walking in circles,moving the head in a jerky motion, and holding the neck and head in an unusual position (more drasticthan simply drooping). The neurological signs associated with HPAI infection are not well characterized,please collect detailed descriptions of the observed signs, and call the NWHC with questions. Video andphotos are strongly encouraged. Wild raptors with neurologic/respiratory signs that die or are euthanized within 72 hours of admission to arehabilitation facility. Please also provide treatment records. Raptors held in captivity (i.e., falconer birds, rehabilitation facility) with sudden, unexplainedmorbidity/mortality after exposure to wild waterfowl or a known/suspect case of HPAI H5.NOTE: If your agency receives a report that falls outside of these criteria but you suspect there is elevatedpotential for HPAI infection please do not hesitate to contact the NWHC. Unless otherwise instructed, the NWHCmay only screen carcasses for HPAI if this is the primary reason for submission.General safety guidelines for hunters and biologists handling wildlife and their tissues: Do not handle or eat sick game. Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game. When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant and clean knives, equipment,and surfaces that came in contact with game. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals. All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Additional guidance for hunters: Guidance for Hunters Protect Yourself and Your Birds from AvianInfluenzaField biologists should follow these minimum precautions when handling sick or dead birds associated witha mortality event: Wear protective clothing including aprons, coveralls, rubber boots, rubber or latex gloves, eye protection,and face shields that can be disinfected or discarded to prevent skin and mucous membrane contact withbiological materials and movement of biological materials among sites. Work in well-ventilated areas or upwind of animals to decrease the risk of inhaling airborne particulatematter such as dust, feathers, or dander. A particulate respirator (NIOSH N95 respirator/mask or better) is recommended when working inconfined spaces or conditions that promote aerolization of debris. Check with your agency policies forspecific respirator guidance while handling sick and dead wildlife. Wash hands often and thoroughly for at least 30 seconds with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals. Decontaminate work areas and properly dispose of potentially infectious material including carcasses.Additional minimum precautions for field biologists working with wild birds in areas where H5 HPAIshave been detected: Follow recommendations for handling sick or dead birds associated with a mortality event. Remove dirty protective clothing and equipment, store in a tied bag for washing or disposal upon leavinga site, and change into clean protective clothing and equipment before handling birds at a new site. Disinfect work surfaces and equipment between sites with 10% bleach solution or other productregistered as effective at killing influenza A viruses. Allow disinfected surfaces and equipment to air drybetween sites. If possible, avoid bringing vehicles into contact with avian fecal materials. If vehicles (trucks, ATVs,boats) are in contact with potentially infectious materials (feces, feathers, tissues) remove all debris fromtires, wheel wells, vehicle bodies, and watercraft and wash down with a water sprayer on site, if possible.Potential vehicle cleaning mechanisms include a hand pump water sprayer or gas powered sprayer. If thevehicle undercarriage or side panels are heavily soiled, a commercial carwash is an option to removedebris. Once clean, disinfect tires, wheel wells, and watercraft surfaces with a 10% bleach solution orother product rated effective at killing influenza A viruses before moving to a new site. Check with your state environmental quality agency for local guidelines on using and disposing ofdisinfectants in the field. Monitor personnel health* for fever and respiratory symptoms for one week following exposure to live ordead wild birds. If symptoms develop, contact your health care provider.*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes the human health threat of the current highlypathogenic H5 avian influenzas to be low. Consult the CDC and your local agency policies for updated personalbiosafety recommendations related to human health.AcknowledgementsDetails on the Canada goose mortality event and testing in Michigan were provided to the NWHC by Dr. SteveSchmitt, MI DNR.Additional Information:Disease Investigation Services:To request diagnostic services or report wildlife mortality, please contact the NWHC at 608-270-2480 or by emailat, and a field epidemiologist will be available to discuss the case. To report wildlifemortality events in Hawaii or Pacific Island territories, please contact the Honolulu Field Station at 808-792-9520or email Thierry Work at Further information can be found at Wildlife Mortality Reporting and Diagnostic Submission Request Form OIE: Questions and Answers on Avian Influenza, May 2015 NWHC Avian Influenza Information USDA Avian Influenza Information USDA Biosecurity for Birds 2015 Surveillance Plan for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Waterfowl in the United States EPA Fact Sheet: Antimicrobial Products Registered for Disinfection Use against Avian Influenza onPoultry Farms and Other Facilities Michigan Department of Natural Resources Avian Influenza in Wild Birds Information Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Avian Influenza in Wild Birds Information Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Avian Influenza in Wild Birds Information Department of Interior Employee Health and Safety Guidance for Avian Influenza Surveillance andControl Activities in Wild Bird PopulationsIf you have any questions or concerns regarding the scientific and technical services the NWHC provides, please do nothesitate to contact NWHC Director Jonathan Sleeman at 608-270-2401, see past Wildlife Health Bulletins, click here. WILDLIFE HEALTH BULLETINS are distributed to natural resource/conservationagencies to provide and promote information exchange about significant wildlife health threats. If you would like to be added to orremoved from the mailing list for these bulletins, please contact Gail Moede Rogall at 608-270-2438 or e-mail:

  • Minnesota declares H5N2 emergency as spread continues
    Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton today declared an emergency over the widespread H5N2 avian influenza invasion of poultry farms, as the state's first outbreaks in chickens and backyard poultry were reported and Wisconsin and Iowa each announced a new turkey outbreak.By declaring a state of emergency, Dayton activated an emergency operations plan to support the state's response to the crisis, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The state has logged 46 outbreaks in 16 counties, with more than 2.63 million birds either killed by the virus or destroyed to stop its spread, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH).Dayton's action also calls for National Guard troops to be used as needed, but it wasn't immediately clear whether any would be called up, the story said. On Apr 20, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to help respond to H5N2, after the state veterinarian asked that a few Guard members be made available.Large chicken farm hitMinnesota's first H5N2 outbreak on a commercial chicken farm was reported today at J & A Farms, an egg operation about 20 miles west of Detroit Lakes in the northwest, the Star Tribune reported. In addition, the MBAH reported an outbreak in a mixed backyard flock of 150 poultry in Pipestone County, near the state's southwestern corner, the county's first outbreak.Amon Baer, owner of the chicken farm near Detroit Lakes, told the newspaper he must destroy about 300,000 chickens after tests he ordered confirmed the presence of the virus. The story said the MBAH was aware of the test result and was in the process of confirming it. If confirmed, the outbreak will push the state's losses of turkeys and chickens close to 3 million.Baer said that dealing with the outbreak will be very costly, since it includes cleaning and disinfecting facilities in addition to culling all the birds, according to the story. He said federal assistance will cover some of his losses but not nearly all of them.Chickens are believed to be less susceptible than turkeys to H5N2, but a few chicken-farm outbreaks have been reported, including at least one each in Iowa and WisconsinThe MBAH's list of 46 Minnesota outbreaks does yet not include the chicken-farm event. In addition, one of 15 reported outbreaks in Kandiyohi County is not yet included in the total, because the number of affected birds has not yet been confirmed, MBAH spokeswoman Bethany Hahn said today.Another Wisconsin outbreakMeanwhile, Wisconsin officials today reported the state's sixth H5N2 outbreak, on a farm with 90,000 turkeys. It's the second outbreak in Barron County in the northwestern part of the state.In a statement, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said the property was quarantined and the surviving birds will be destroyed, as neighboring poultry owners are notified.Wisconsin's first H5N2 outbreak surfaced in Jefferson County on Apr 13, and more outbreaks have occurred since then in Jefferson, Juneau, Chippewa, and Barron counties. In those counties, State Veterinarian Paul McGraw has banned movement of poultry to shows and swap meets, the statement noted.More Iowa turkeys affectedAlso, early this evening the Iowa Department of Agriculture (IDA) reported the state's third outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), involving a commercial turkey flock of 34,000 birds in Sac County in the western portion of the state.The farm is within the 10-kilometer monitoring zone of an H5N2 outbreak in Buena Vista Country that was reported on Apr 14, Iowa's first H5N2 outbreak. This is Iowa's third outbreak of HPAI in poultry. The second, reported earlier this week, involved 3.8 million chickens in Osceola County, adjacent to Minnesota.Preliminary tests indicate the outbreak was cause by an H5 strain, the IDA said in a news release, and samples have been sent to the US Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, to confirm the exact strain.Scientists see long-term threatIn other developments, an article in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests that H5N2 and other descendants of the H5N8 avian flu virus that arose in Asia in 2014 may be a long-term threat to poultry and wildlife in the Northern Hemisphere.The article, by three staff members of the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., traces the emergence of H5N8 and its various progeny, including H5N2. It says the H5N8 virus apparently arose in China through reassortment of highly pathogenic H5N1 with various low-pathogenic viruses.The H5N8 virus was first detected in early 2014 in poultry and wild birds in South Korea and subsequently surfaced in Russia's wild waterfowl in September, the article notes. Since then the virus and various reassortants have been found in poultry and wild birds in Europe, Taiwan, Japan, Canada (British Columbia), and the western and central United States.Because wild waterfowl are natural hosts for avian flu viruses, and H5N8 seems to have little effect on them, "it seems probable that the virus was disseminated out of Russia into Europe, East Asia, and North America by migrating waterfowl during autumn 2014," the report says.It goes on to state, "Persistence of the original HPAI H5N8 virus for 1 year, the creation of multiple reassortant viruses that have maintained high pathogenicity in poultry, and adaptation of the virus to migrating waterfowl all indicate that these viruses could persist and spread in Northern Hemisphere waterfowl populations for an extended period."As the viruses persist, so does the threat of new genetic combinations that could arise in wild waterfowl and then spill over into poultry and other birds, the authors add. They ask, among other questions, whether these viruses might reassort with viruses from other species, such as swine, and whether such reassortant viruses might pose a risk to humans.They also observe that H5N8 and related strains may be a threat to wild raptors, as suggested by the infections detected in gyrfalcons and a few other species in North America.

  • Migrating birds may carry viral baggage
    Right now, a lethal strain of bird flu is wreaking havoc in the Lower 48. Its clear that migrating flocks have something to do with spreading the illness between farms and across continents but exactly what is still fuzzy.A remote spot in Southwest Alaska may hold some clues.VmPThe Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is pretty far off the road system unless you count the avian highways that run overhead.Izembek provides wonderful staging habitat for large numbers of migratory birds both from Eurasia and North America, says Andy Ramey, a geneticist with the U.S. Geological Survey. So theres potential for viruses to mix and be spread among birds at that location.Ramey and his colleagues recently published a new study on bird flu. To figure out how migration might be helping the virus get around, they visited the Izembek Refuge every fall when Emperor Geese and Northern Pintail ducks were passing through.Over four years, the researchers collected almost 3,000 swabs and fecal samples. None of them contained deadly flu, like the kind thats killing off poultry at farms in the Midwest.But Izembek did show an exact match for a harmless strain of bird flu thats only been found in China and South Korea.After some genetic tests, Ramey says, what we found was these viruses were sort of hybrids. That is, theyre essentially half-Eurasian and half-North American.These mixed-up viruses arent uncommon at the edge of the continent. Moving further inland, Ramey says youre more likely to find pure ones. And those are what researchers have been looking for to prove that migrations spreading bird flu.Theres been a lot of effort to find an apple in the basket of oranges, or an orange in the basket of apples, Ramey says.Finding a half-apple, half-orange virus in birds on both sides of the Pacific Ocean has never happened before, according to Hon Ip. Hes with the U.S. Geological Surveys National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin.One possible mechanism of how this happened is that a Eurasian virus was brought by wild birds into Alaska and a reassortant virus emerged from a co-infection there that now generated this combination virus which has a little bit of Eurasian genes and a little of North American genes, Ip says.From there, it mightve hitched a flight back to Asia with a migrating duck or goose. Or the hybrid virus could have spread out from Russia.Either way, its a long journey. But Ip and Ramey say there might be more versions of the bird flu out there taking a similar path.Going forward, Ramey wants to continue testing birds in the Izembek Refuge to find out what kind of viral baggage theyre bringing with them and what happens when it gets unpacked across borders.

  • Wisconsin reports H5N2 in turkeys, backyard poultry
    The H5N2 avian influenza virus is continuing to hopscotch through the Upper Midwest, as shown today by a report of Wisconsin's second and third outbreaks, in turkeys and backyard poultry at widely separated sites.The two new outbreaks, combined with previous ones listed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), boost the count of poultry outbreaks of H5N2 in the United States since December to 43, with most of them having occurred in the Midwest since early March. Twenty-two outbreaks have been in Minnesota, where more than 1.4 million turkeys have been lost to the virus and control efforts.In Wisconsin, the virus struck a farm with 126,000 turkeys in the northwestern county of Barron, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection reported in a statement. It also hit a flock of 40 backyard birds in Juneau County in the west-central part of the state.Both sites are distant from Wisconsin's first outbreak, on a chicken farm in Jefferson County in the southeast, which was reported 3 days ago. That was the first commercial chicken farm to be hit by the virus, which has overwhelmingly favored turkey farms.Wisconsin authorities said their response to the new outbreaks will follow the standard script, including quarantines of the sites, culling of the surviving birds, and testing of poultry at other sites nearby. "Officials are investigating how the virus entered the flocks and may not have answers for some time," the statement said.Such answers have eluded investigators of all the H5N2 outbreaks so far. Officials say wild birds such as ducks can carry the virus and shed it in their feces without appearing sick, but scientists have not reported finding the virus in wild birds near any of the recent outbreak sites. The recent outbreaks have occurred in the Central and Mississippi flyways for migratory birds.H5N2 has surfaced in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Montana since early March, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin. Earlier in the winter it hit a few poultry flocks in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. A few detections in wild birds have been reported as well.Eastern poultry farmers worriedMeanwhile, poultry producers in the eastern United States are worried about the threat of an H5N2 invasion, according to an Associated Press (AP) report yesterday. It said the concern is that if the virus isn't already hiding somewhere in the Atlantic flyway, it could spread there when wild ducks fly south for the winter this fall or return north next spring.Government scientists speculate that when ducks and other migratory waterfowl from different flyways gather on northern breeding grounds this summer, they could expose each other to the H5N2 virus, and then carry it back south this fall along several migration routes, perhaps including the Atlantic flyway, the story said. The flyway includes several of the country's top poultry producing states, such as Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland.Hon Ip, PhD, MS, a microbiologist with the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., told the AP that researchers believe the spread of the Eurasian H5N8 virus from Asia to Europe and North America last year resulted from the mingling of migratory birds in northeastern Russia last summer. The H5N2 virus is a product of reassortment between the Eurasian H5N8 strain and viruses from North American wild birds.One challenge scientists have in predicting how H5N2 may spread is that they don't have enough surveillance data from wild birds to prove they're the source yet, said Tom DeLiberto, DVM, PhD, assistant director of the USDA's National Wildlife Research Center, according to the AP. He said only 56 wild birds have tested positive for H5N8, H5N2, and a few similar viruses, and most were in the Pacific Northwest. Only four or five wild birds have tested positive in the Mississippi flyway, he said.H5N1 in Bhutan, H5N6 in Hong KongIn other developments, Bhutan today reported its first H5N1 avian flu outbreak since April 2013. The virus killed 16 of 37 birds in a backyard poultry flock in the western province of Thimphu, an agriculture official said in a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today.The outbreak was first noticed Apr 3, the report said. The surviving birds were destroyed to stop the virus, and no cases were seen in nearby flocks.Also today, Hong Kong officials reported that the H5N6 avian flu virus was found in a dead peregrine falcon, the first such detection in the territory. The carcass was found at a construction site, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in a press release.The H5N6 virus has caused a few poultry outbreaks in China, Vietnam, and Laos since it first cropped up in China in March 2014, and China has had three human cases, two of them fatal.


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