Over the weekend Chinese language media have carried vague reports of a `bird flu' outbreak in Eastern Malaysia (see report here), without specifying the subtype of avian influenza.
Sixteen months ago (see OIE Notification: H5N1 Returns To Malaysia After Nearly A Decade) we watched an extensive outbreak of bird flu on Peninsula Malaysia, near the border with Thailand.This latest outbreak is reported more than 900 miles to the east of last year's event, on the northern tip of the island of Borneo. This morning the OIE has published a notification identifying this outbreak as H5N1.
Source of the outbreak(s) or origin of infectionUnknown or inconclusive
Epidemiological commentsThe report of high mortality of layer chickens was received by Sabah Department of Veterinary Services on 27 July 2018. Investigation and sampling were carried out on the same day. Movement of animals and animal products was banned on the same day.
Upon confirmation of the laboratory of the samples positive for HPAI (H5N1), stamping out of the flock was carried out and the carcasses were officially disposed of.
This is the first occurrence of HPAI in Sabah state. Sabah is a state of Malaysia located at East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia are separated by the South China Sea.
Given this latest outbreak is separated from Malaysia's previous one by more than 16 months, and more than 1400 km of the South China Sea, it suggests a new introduction of the virus into the country - possibly by migratory birds.
A no-so-gentle reminder that while H5N1 activity - particularly in South East Asia - has been relatively subdued these past few years, that this particular subtype of avian flu persists in the environment, and could stage a comeback at some point.