An indication of how quickly things are changing, although this document was put online today and carries a March 13th release date, HPAI H5 has been reported in a 10th American State (Kansas) since this report was written.
After the great H5N1 diaspora of 2005-2006, where the virus spread from 15 countries to more than 60 in two years, it began to recede in most places, becoming endemic in just a handful.
While remaining a perennial concern in places like China, Indonesia, India, and Egypt . . . the feared global expansion of HPAI H5N1 stopped almost as abruptly as it began. And except for occasional appearances in Japan, Korea, and Nigeria, the virus settled into an uneasy status quo.
But a little over a year ago a new HPAI H5 virus appeared in Korean Poultry; H5N8. In short order it was detected in Japan, and China, and within months turned up in Europe, Taiwan, Canada, and now the United States. As a world traveling HPAI virus, H5N8 has picked up where H5N1 stalled out.
Added to this, we’ve significant H7N9 activity in China, a record setting outbreak of human H5N1 infections in Egypt, and a growing roster of new reassortant avian flu viruses bubbling up in China (see China: H5 AI Rising).
Due to this rapidly changing avian threat, for the second month in a row the UK government has issued an avian flu update.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Animal & Plant Health Agency Veterinary & Science Policy Advice Team - International Disease Monitoring
Updated Outbreak Assessment
Ref: VITT/1200 HPAI Europe, America and Middle East
No further outbreaks of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Italy,
Netherlands, Germany or the UK.
Hungary reported a single outbreak of H5N8 HPAI earlier this month in Bekes region. The affected premises contained 16 day old fattener ducks in which clinical signs were observed, probably related to the young age of the birds as in adults birds infected with the same strain of virus, clinical signs have been relatively mild in cases to date. Disease control measures were put in place and no further spread was reported.
Bulgaria reported an outbreak of H5N1 HPAI in a backyard flock in Burgas region and also in three more wild birds (Dalmatian pelican, Pelecanus crispus, Rock dove, Columba livia and a Black headed gull, Larus ridibundus). Sequence data has confirmed this is related to the Central Asian strains circulating in wild birds and associated with the last poultry and wild bird incursions Europe in 2010. Disease control measures were put in place.
Israel has reported further cases of H5N1 HPAI in poultry: five more outbreaks in Hamerkaz in commercial poultry (turkeys and broilers). Disease control measures are in place. Sequence data has confirmed this is a poultry-adapted strain found in this region previously and closely related to strains associated with outbreaks in Egypt. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Animal & Plant Health Agency Veterinary & Science Policy Advice Team - International Disease Monitoring
USA continues to report avian influenza. A further outbreak of H5N8 HPAI in commercial birds (a mixed duck and chicken premises) has been reported in California. H5N2 HPAI has been reported from commercial premises in Idaho, Washington State, Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas. The most recent outbreaks in Mid-USA are all in commercial turkeys and represent a large geographic jump in disease distribution to the centre of the country which suggests a corresponding spread of H5N2 HPAI in wild birds into the Central Flyway as well as a the Pacific Flyway. Sequence data for the virus isolated from the turkey cases showed 99% similarity to wild bird viral sequences. Wild bird cases of H5N8 and H5N2 HPAI continue to be reported within the Pacific Flyway States.
Situation Assessment In addition to the outbreaks and wild bird cases reported in Europe, the Middle East and America, there are still multiple virus subtypes circulating in Asia (Japan, China, Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam) as well as Nigeria (H5N1 HPAI) and a significant increase in outbreaks of H5N1 HPAI in Egypt (for further information on the situation in Egypt, see the FAO report at
Recently the WHO has Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Animal & Plant Health Agency Veterinary & Science Policy Advice Team - International Disease Monitoring produced a warning about the increase in avian influenza viruses in terms of both circulation and diversity emphasising that vigilance is required in case of a potential increase in human infection, but it should be emphasised that of the recently reported outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI, none have caused spill-over infection into humans (WHO, 2015).
Nevertheless cases of human infection are still occurring, with H5N1 HPAI in Egypt and China and three cases of H5N6 HPAI in China, while avian influenza H7N9 continues to cause human cases in China. The recent report of two human cases of H7N9 in travellers returning from China to Canada demonstrates the risk of carriage by humans to new areas. Nevertheless the co-circulation of multiple lineages and subtypes of H5 HPAI within different continents will likely result in further genetic diversity within this group of viruses with unknown implications for its maintenance and spread.
Conclusion The continuing outbreaks of HPAI and LPAI occurring across the EU and wider afield, means the likelihood of the UK having another outbreak remains increased for the upcoming weeks. It would not be unexpected to see a degree of seasonality in the timing of the outbreaks but for the time being we would like to remind all poultry keepers to maintain high standards of biosecurity and report any suspect clinical signs promptly. For reports of wild birds (any number of swans, ducks and geese or >5 other birds) found dead by the public, please notify the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 and see the Gov.uk website for more information: https://www.gov.uk/avian-influenza-bird-flu