H5N8 Branching Out To Europe & Japan
Like the Mission San Juan Capistrano’s annual return of the swallows, Izumi City on southern tip of Japan is famous for the yearly arrival and overwintering of thousands of rare Hooded, and White-naped cranes. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists both species as Vulnerable (one step up from Endangered).
Both species spend their summers in Mongolia, Siberia, or Northwestern China - and of the roughly 10,000 hooded swans in the world - 80% overwinter in Izumi.
Hooded cranes, and the nature preserve at Izumi, are regarded (and often referred to as) `National Treasures’ in Japan, which is why in 2010-11 we saw a near panic among officials when 5 Hooded Cranes Test Positive For H5N1 in Izumi. As I discussed in Japan’s Bird Flu Dilemma, there are few options open to officials when a potentially deadly virus strikes a rare, and protected species of birds.
The impact that year was limited (many birds can carry the virus without ill effect), and we did not see a major return of H5N1 bird flu during the past few winters.
Fast forward to 2014, and suddenly Japan, Korea, and Europe are being visited by birds carrying a new – highly pathogenic – H5N8 virus. This avian influenza subtype emerged as a threat in Korea last January, and last spring caused millions of dollars of damage to their poultry industry.
As I reported on Thursday (see Bird Flu Reports From India, Japan, Korea & Taiwan), Japan has already reported three detections of the H5N8 virus in migratory birds this winter. Today we learn that the virus has now been detected in a White-naped crane at the nature preserve at Izumi city.
Ministry of the Environment has announced that the 29th was detected highly pathogenic avian influenza virus strong toxic from White-naped of Kagoshima Prefecture Izumi (H5N8 subtype). The city, there is Japan's largest wintering grounds that vines more than 10,000 birds to try, vines and about 245 hectares of land has been designated as special national treasure. The detection of highly pathogenic virus, season four cases first. (2014/11 / 29-17: 46)
While there isn’t a lot of surveillance data available, we’ve already seen the H5N8 virus show up this fall in Korea, China, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK – both in domesticated poultry, and in wild or migratory birds.
Compared to other avian flu viruses we’ve followed over the past decade, this one seems to be spreading geographically at a very rapid rate.
The good news, is that so far there have been no documented human infections with H5N8, and so this virus remains primarily a threat to wild birds and poultry operations.
For more on the spread of H5N8, you may wish to revisit: