Location of Outbreaks – Source OIE
Last May the H5N6 virus made headlines (see Sichuan China: 1st Known Human Infection With H5N6 Avian Flu) when it was detected in samples taken from a 49 year-old man who had been exposed to dead chickens and died of pneumonia.
Subsequently the China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Veterinary Bureau filed an OIE report on the local outbreak in poultry, where more than 1300 birds were culled.
Although Low Pathogenic H5N6 had been identified previously in wild birds in Taiwan, Germany, Sweden and the United States this new strain was classified as highly pathogenic. And like the H5N8 virus which emerged last January in South Korea, this new virus appeared to be a reassortant of the H5N1 avian flu virus.
Today the OIE has published a notification of two – widely separated – H5N6 outbreaks in Vietnamese poultry. The first, located near the border with China, had an onset in April – and began at roughly the same time as China’s previously mentioned outbreak (albeit several hundred miles distant).
The second outbreak, several hundred kilometers further south, began in June. The delays in reporting these outbreaks are attributed to the time it has taken to determine the identity of this new strain of avian influenza.
Although apparently not spreading as rapidly or as widely as the H5N8 virus did in South Korea last winter, this virus only appeared on the radar at the end of spring, traditionally when avian flu outbreaks in poultry are on the decline. Obviously there will be a lot of eyes watching for its possible return this fall.
And unlike H5N8, this strain has a track record of having infected, and killed, at least one person.