Published Date: 2008-12-12 15:00:42
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Avian influenza (117): China (HK), H5N1, India (Assam)
Archive Number: 20081212.3909
AVIAN INFLUENZA (117): CHINA (HONG KONG), H5N1, INDIA (ASSAM)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
In this update:
 Hong Kong - H5N1 confirmed
 India, Assam - spread
 Hong Kong - H5N1 confirmed
Date: Thu 11 Dec 2008
Source: CIDRAP News [edited]
Tests confirm H5N1 in Hong Kong outbreak
Agriculture officials in Hong Kong today [11 Dec 2008] confirmed that the
avian influenza virus that recently hit a large commercial chicken farm was
the lethal H5N1 strain, as authorities vowed to explore potential
protection gaps in the poultry vaccine and the possibility that smuggled
eggs might be a source of the virus.
Jolly Choi, spokeswoman for Hong Kong's agriculture, fisheries, and
conservation department said earlier tests on 9 Dec 2008 were positive for
an H5 virus, but further testing showed that 3 chickens found dead on the
farm had the H5N1 subtype, according to a report today from the Associated
Meanwhile, York Chow, Hong Kong's secretary for food and health, told
reporters at a press conference yesterday [Wed 10 Dec 2008; see posting
20081210.3879 - Mod.AS] that experts are focusing on 2 lines of
investigation: a possible biosecurity lapse at the farm and if a change in
the circulating virus has hobbled Hong Kong's poultry vaccine.
The outbreak, China's 1st on a farm since 2003, prompted the culling of
more than 80 000 birds and restrictions on poultry imports.
Chow said Hong Kong been using an H5N2 vaccine manufactured in the
Netherlands since 2003. "Over the last few years it has been proven to be
effective, but we also think that because the change of the virus, we might
have to look for a more appropriate vaccine," he said in a government press
The Chinese mainland has been using H5N1 vaccine for poultry over the past
few years, which is modified periodically, Chow said, adding that
veterinary officials have contacted mainland authorities to explore if a
switch to the H5N1 vaccine would be more protective. He said that
government officials would also be seeking guidance from experts at Hong
Kong University, where vaccine studies in poultry have already been under
way since June .
So far there is no evidence that the virus has spread to other farms, Chow
said in the statement. Investigators have collected samples from farms to
conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, and the results should be
available in a day or 2.
In other developments, poultry trade representatives in Hong Kong said
today that smuggled fertilized eggs from China could be the source of the
recent H5N1 outbreak, according to a report today from Agence France-Presse
The Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers Association said smuggling has become
more common since the government banned the import of 1-day-old chickens
from China as an H5N1 prevention measure earlier this year , the AFP
The South China Morning Post reported today that the eggs, ostensibly
imported as food, contain potentially infected embryos that are less than a
week from hatching, according to AFP. However, the owner of the farm that
was struck by the H5N1 virus denied having smuggled any fertilized eggs
from China, the report said.
Elsewhere, health ministry officials in India said today that the H5N1
virus has now spread to 6 of 27 districts in Assam state, according to a
report from Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) [see item 2, below]. Parthajyoti
Gogoi, a health ministry official, told IANS that more than 200 000
chickens and ducks have been culled since the outbreak was 1st detected 2
weeks ago. The culling activities have affected 200 villages in Kamrup
(Metro), Kamrup (Rural), Dibrugarh, Nalbari, Barpeta, and Chirang districts.
Teams of doctors and paramedics are taking measures to prevent human H5N1
infections, the report said.
[byline: Lisa Schnirring]
 India, Assam - spread
Date: Thu 11 Dec 2008
Source: ZeeNews [edited]
Bird flu spreads its wings, affects 9 Assam districts
With the avian influenza spreading to fresh areas, 9 Assam districts are
now bird flu affected and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday
[11 Dec 2008] warned that it could become a major human disaster. The
affected districts were Kamrup (Rural), Kamrup (Metro), Barpeta, Nalbari,
Chirang, Baksa, Dibrugarh, Goalpara and Bongaigaon, official sources said.
Sale of poultry and eggs, either cooked or raw, has been banned in Guwahati
and Kamrup (Metro) district which comprises Guwahati and adjoining areas.
Culling of poultry, ducks and other birds has been continuing in the
affected districts with over 1.5 lakh [150 000] birds killed so far, the
"People are taking the disease very casually. Chicken and ducks are being
kept away from culling without realising the seriousness of the disease,"
Sarma told reporters here. "We will not be able to handle it, if the
disease spreads to humans from the birds. The way the disease is spreading,
it will be a greater disaster than bomb blasts or floods," Sarma said. "The
human disaster will be immense. The health department is very worried about
human transmission of the disease as it is not 100 percent equipped to
handle a large scale outbreak as there are no isolation facilities here,"
The disease, starting from Hajo revenue circle in Kamrup (Rural) district
about 20 km [12.4 miles] from here [Guwahati] on 2 Dec 2008 and spread to
Guwahati in Kamrup (Metro) district, Nalbari, Barpeta, Chirang, Baksa,
Bongaigaon and Goalpara districts in Lower Assam spreading to Dibrugarh
district in Upper Assam.
Taking in view that the bird flu is spreading to new areas in neighbouring
Assam, Meghalaya banned the entry of poultry and poultry products from
Assam and Bangladesh.
"The ban comes into force with immediate effect. However, the ban does not
imply to the sale of poultry and poultry products produced within the
state," a Veterinary Department release here said. A senior veterinary
official told media that they were preparing to cull birds and poultry in
the bordering areas with Assam as soon as the centre asks to do so.
"Normally culling operations are done in a radius of 3 km [1.8 miles] of
the place of disease outbreak. With the bird flu outbreak in Assam's
Khanapara, lying along Assam-Meghalaya border, it is likely that culling
would be done in the bordering areas of Meghalaya too," he said.
Deputy commissioner of Ri Bhoi district that borders Khanapara in Assam's
Kamrup (Rural) district is on a visit to the bordering areas along with a
team of veterinary officials to take stock of the situation. The government
has set up control rooms in all districts to facilitate information to the
poultry farms. Veterinary officials have been regularly adopting measures
to prevent spread of the disease into the state and deputy commissioners of
all the districts have been alerted, sources said. Meghalaya already has in
place 150 rapid response teams along with 2170 personnel protective
equipment that were constituted last year  after the outbreak of
avian flu in West Bengal.
ProMED-mail rapporteur Mary Marshall
[Since January 2006, India reported 51 outbreaks of HPAI H5N1; its current
spread in Assam seems to become India's 2nd major outbreak, following the
one observed in January 2008 on its north eastern regions, bordering
(infected) Bangladesh. The previous outbreaks occurred in Jan-Apr 2006 (7
outbreaks); see OIE's time-series analysis for the period Jan 2005-Dec 2008
by inserting India at
India's last report to the OIE on H5N1 in the Assam state was submitted on
28 Nov 2008, addressing an outbreak in Hajo (Rajabazar, Kamrup). It
included the following epidemiological commentary:
"Epidemiological investigation is ongoing. Stamping out of all domestic
poultry is being applied in an approximately 5-km-radius [3.1 mile] zone
around the outbreaks followed by compensation of the owners. An intensive
surveillance campaign has been launched in a 10-km-radius [6.2 mile] zone
- closure of poultry markets and prohibition on sale and transportation of
poultry products in the infected zone;
- disinfection of premises after culling and sealing of premises where
Restocking will be applied in accordance with a specific protocol."
For the report, including map, see
posting 20081129.3757. In view of avian influenza's pattern of seasonal
activity, further spread during the coming winter months may be
anticipated, requiring enhanced and drastic control measures. - Mod.AS]