Suspected low pathogenic H5N1 Bird Flu virus found in the United States

Monday, August 14, 2006

Scientists have discovered the possible presence of the H5N1 Bird Flu virus in wild mute swans in Michigan on the coast of Lake Erie near the Mouillee state game area in Monroe County. The swans were sampled on August 8, 2006 and the initial testing was done at Michigan State University's Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health and at the National Veterinary Services laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow says that "They (the scientists) believe it is a strain of low pathogenicity, similar to strains that have been seen before in North America."

Snow also added that "this [case] is not what we're accustomed to hearing about from Asia."

"Test results thus far indicate this is low pathogenicity avian influenza, which poses no threat to human health. Routine surveillance has indicated the presence of H5 and N1 avian influenza subtypes in samples from two wild mute swans in Michigan," said a statement on the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) website.

The statement also went on to say that the swans "did not show signs of sickness" and that the swans were infected with "two separate" strains of Avian Flu.

"It is possible that these birds were not infected with an H5N1 strain, but instead with two separate avian influenza viruses, one containing H5 and the other containing N1," said the statement.

"This is not the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus that has spread through much of other parts of the world. We do not believe this virus represents a risk to human health," said USDA's Animal and Plant Health inspector, Ron DeHaven.

Health officials are remaining "remaining vigilant and prepared," said Department of Health and Human Services science advisor, Dr. William Raub.

Further tests will be done to confirm that there is in fact a virus there and what type and are expected sometime today.

"The confirmatory testing underway at NVSL will clarify whether one or more strains of the virus are present, the specific subtype, as well as pathogenicity," said that statement but also said that it could take "up to two weeks and will be made public when completed." The statement also said that the "testing suggests" the strain is of low pathogenicity, but that these tests do "not confirm" the findings.

The virus turned up two times in the U.S. The first case was in 1971 and the second in 1986. In both cases, the virus turned up in wild ducks.