Infectious Diseases 2007

Infectious Diseases 2007

Avian influenza virus isolates from Germany in 2006 and 2007

24 November, 2007

In spring 2006, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) of subtype H5N1 was detected in Germany in 343 dead wild birds, as well as in a black swan (Cygnus atratus) kept in a zoo, three stray cats, one stone marten (Martes foina), and in a single turkey farm. In 2007 (June-July) the virus reoccurred in 96 wild birds at six geographically separate locations in the Southeast of Germany. In addition, a backyard mixed duck and goose holding was affected.

Three closely related but distinguishable H5N1 subclades could be defined: In 2006 a 'Northern type' (subclade 2.2.2), representing virus isolates from the German federal states Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein, Brandenburg, and Lower Saxony, and a 'Southern type' (subclade 2.2.1) from Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria were detected. Interestingly, representatives of both types were present in Central Germany and caused the outbreak in turkeys (subclade 2.2.2) and in a case in a tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) (subclade 2.2.1) in Saxony. Furthermore, one isolate from the South of Germany was identified as 2.2.2 and vice versa a 2.2.1-like isolate was found in Northern Germany. H5N1 viruses isolated in 2007 belonged to a third type (subclade 2.2.3) which was not detected in 2006. Our data suggest the introduction of three distinct H5N1 variants into the wild bird population of Germany. The source of these viruses and the exact time of introduction remain obscure. Based on the identification of closely related H5N1 viruses from Southern and Central Russia, a recent introduction via wild birds on winter escape from these regions, early in 2006 constitutes the most likely scenario for the 2006 outbreaks. The viruses detected in 2007 most likely represent another new incursion from an as yet unknown source (Starick et al., Vet Microbiol. 2007).