October 13, 2005
At a press conference in Brussels today the European Union Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou announced that the avian influenza A virus H5N1 has been confirmed in Europe for the first time, after investigation of animal deaths in Turkey. No human infections have occurred. The story has been carried online this morning by Reuters, the Washington Post, the NY Times, and other news sources.
He also noted that, in Romania, testing of ducks has so far only revealed an “H5” virus. Whether it is H5N1, H5N2, H5N3 or another virus is not yet known. The final viral identification is expected by October 14th. The EU has therefore banned imports of live poultry and birds from Romania.
Turkey reported the bird flu deaths promptly, and identified an “H5” avian flu virus to the OIE on October 9, and undertook culling and quarantine response measures. On October 10, the EU banned all imports of live poultry from Turkey. On October 11th the Chairman of the Turkish Veterinarians’ Union cited the Manyas region in the NW city of Balikesir as the location of the bird flu cases, but as a precaution noted that surveillance for other outbreaks, and educating the public, are among additional necessary measures.
Yesterday, October 12, Iran reported to the Paris-based OIE World Animal Health Organization that 3, 673 wild waterfowl (wild ducks) had died at Poldasht, on the coast of Arras, West Azerbaijan province. No etiological agent for these deaths of wild ducks has been identified yet, and thus it is unknown whether an avian influenza virus is even present here. The date of onset of this event was listed as October 2nd. The area has been quarantined.
Emergency meetings of the EU are scheduled for today and tomorrow regarding this news that the H5N1 influenza virus has now entered Europe. How the virus arrived is relevant for several reasons, both in terms of mitigating further such events, and in predicting where this virus may appear next.
For example, will H5N1 follow migratory wild bird flyways further into Europe or toward North Africa, or is there a human-associated element involved with transport of infected wild birds or poultry, across somewhat long distances from Asia? Both possibilities have been cited previously to account for the spread of the virus in Asia, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
National and international preparedness for both H5N1 influenza outbreaks in avians, and pandemic influenza preparedness in humans will hopefully be catalyzed further in an interactive and linked manner by these developing events.
Daniel R. Lucey MD, MPH
Director, Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases
ER One Institutes, Washington Hospital Center
Georgetown University School of Medicine
Department of Microbiology and Immunology