Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Beat goes on

The UN's World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) confirmed that the expected and worrisome spread of highly pathogenic H5N1 into Africa with the positive tests from poultry flocks in Nigeria (Reuters AlertNet). China and Hong Kong, too, are reporting fresh outbreaks (Reuters). In China's coal-mining north several hundred thousand chickens were culled.

China has both more people and more poultry than anywhere else, and they live closely together. There are been more than 30 official poultry outbreaks in China and ten human cases, but most experts believe the actual number of each is greater. The first human cases were reported in Hong Kong in 1997 and since then the City has taken timely and extremely strong control measures, most recently banning all backyard poultry farming. But authorities concede the disease is now endemic there, illustrating the futility of wiping out this disease by controlling it in birds.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 is moving from a regional panzootic to a global panzootic. Since its reappearance in southeast Asia in 2003 it has rapidly picked up speed in geographic spread. Because migratory bird pathways tend to run North - South it is unclear how long it will take to reach birds in North and South America but I am betting we will see it by this time next year.

Predictions with this virus are, like the virus itself, dangerous. So take this guess for what it's worth, about the price I am charging you for it.