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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Bird Flu in Canada

A recent report out of Canada found 33 cases of H5 avian influenza in a national survey of wild ducks. Further tests will be conducted to identify the exact strain. Since the birds were healthy, researchers reported that they do not think the birds are carrying the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1. However, it is a misconception that ducks carrying H5N1 will appear sick.

While we will have to wait for further testing to see if the birds are carrying H5N1 for sure, H5 viruses of any type were previously thought to be rare in Canada. According to the Recombinomics website, "In Canada, there have been about 120 deposits at GenBank and only two are H5. One (H5N2) was detected in 1980 and the other (H5N9) was detected in 1966. Thus, there have been no H5 isolates reported in the past 25 years, although that is when most of the deposits from Canada were collected."

This nation-wide survey found 28 infected ducks in Quebec and 5 in Manitoba, and "will serve as a benchmark in future years". More information about the Canadian monitoring scheme can be found online here. . According to the operational proposal, so far the testing is just of Mallards and other wild ducks. Hopefully, future testing will include a wider range of wild bird species.

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