Eleven days ago in OIE: Russia - HPAI H5 In Wild & Migratory Birds we looked at an OIE report from Russia, which listed a number of bird species taken by hunters earlier last month in and around Ubsu-Nur Lake that tested positive for HPAI H5.
While seemingly a minor report from an obscure, remote area of the world, we are always mindful how quickly migratory birds can transport avian viruses across vast distances.
Until just over a decade ago, HPAI H5N1 was pretty much just a Chinese - Southeast Asia problem. But that all changed abruptly in 2005 when the virus was carried west to Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa by migratory birds.
In late 2014 migratory birds also carried HPAI H5N8 to Taiwan, Western Europe, and North America. And while we watch for their return, we are also aware that HPAI H5N6, LPAI H7N9, and other avian viruses could hitch an international ride as well.
As the following DEFRA report points out, migratory birds who are summering in Russia could arrive in the UK, and Western Europe, as early as September.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal & Plant Health Agency
Veterinary & Science Policy Advice Team - International Disease Monitoring
Preliminary Outbreak Assessment
H5 Avian Influenza of high pathogenicity in wild birds in Russia
27 th June 2016
Ref: VITT/1200 HPAI in Russia
The Russian Authorities have detected H5 HPAI infection in several species of wild bird in
Tuva Republic region, on the border with Mongolia (OIE, 2016; see map). According to the disease report, the following birds tested positive during active surveillance around Ubsu-Nur lake: Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus), Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and unidentified dabbling ducks (Anatidae). All 17 carcases were positive for the H5 viruses of the 188.8.131.52 clade.
The map below shows the global situation and the regions covered by the various wild bird migration flyways. As can be seen, the current wild bird incident lies within two flyways and is located close to a third flyway with overlap into the EU. The bird migration season can start as early as August, for example, Pochards (Aythya ferina) are often some of the first birds to arrive in the UK in September, originating from the breeding grounds in Russia (Delaney et al. 2005).
Although this is the first report for several months of avian influenza H5N1 in wild birds, other strains are reported in South East Asia and further afield in a variety of wild and captive birds, and we should remain vigilant of potential for contact between wild birds and
poultry being a significant risk for the incursion of any notifiable avian disease.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely. We would like to remind all poultry keepers to maintain high standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant and report any suspect clinical signs promptly and in addition using the testing to exclude scheme for avian notifiable disease where appropriate for early safeguard. For more information, please see www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/disease-control/nad
The risk level for the UK remains at low, but heightened.