November 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm #948MikeKeymaster
Common Herring and Black-headed Gulls Die in Oulu Finland
August 27, 2005
[ProMED-mail would like to thank Dr. Petri Ruutu for this rapid
response to our request for information.
Extensive systemic virological surveillance in feral birds have been
undertaken since the late 70’s, revealing the enormous pools of
influenza viruses now known to be present in the wild bird
population, especially in waterbirds. The majority of the viruses
thus isolated were of low pathogenicity to domestic fowl; in rare
occasions, when highly pathogenic viruses were detected, they were in
the vicinity of outbreaks of HPAI in poultry, or geographically and
chronologically close to known outbreaks in poultry. In this context,
the current Finnish observation, which seems to be indicative
(pending final laboratory confirmation) that the isolate is LPAI, is
not unusual. – Mods.AS/MPP]
The above comments at ProMed provide additional evidence that the 50
seagulls that died at Oulu Finland were infected by H5N1 wild bird
flu. Thus far, the clinical data indicates that one of the dead
birds was positive for influenza A. However, media reports indicate
that over 50 gulls have died, representing at least three species,
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus), Common Gull (Larus canus), and
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). Relying on historical avian
influenza infections has uniformly produced the incorrect diagnosis
in China, Russia, and Mongolia. In each of these regions, H5N1 wild
bird flu had not been detected.
The first outbreak was at Qinghai Lake. Initially 178 bar-headed
geese were found dead at the massive nature reserve. I the May 21
OIE report the number of dead birds was reported at 519 and the dead
included two species of gulls, Brown-headed Gulls (Larus
brunnicephalus) and Great Black-headed Gulls (Larus ichthyaetus).
H5N1 was isolated from both species, as well as Bar-headed Geese
(Anser indicus). Initially the dead birds were said to have
definitely not died from bird flu.
This outbreak was followed by an outbreak at Chany lake in
Novosibursk. H5N1 from Asia had never been reported in Russia. The
initial deaths were said to be due to H5N2. However, the sequence of
the isolated virus showed that it was H5N1 and closely related to the
isolates from Qinghai Lake.
The scenario was repeated in Mongolia. Even after the H5 serotype
was determined, there were reports indicating it was not H5N1 because
only a small percentage of the waterfowl had died. However, included
in the waterfowl were gulls and bar headed geese.
Thus, because H5N1 is in migratory birds, the virus is being reported
in regions where it has never been reported previously. This has now
been extended to migratory birds in northern Siberia. Recent
outbreaks north of the east west path in southern Siberia and
northern Kazakhstan indicate H5N1 is beginning to migrate south from
Such a migration would likely start causing deaths in northern
Europe. Since the H5N1 can infect many avian species, the virus can
distribute via a number of flyways that pass through Europe. One
group is heading south towards the Caspian and Black seas, but birds
from northern Siberia would migrate to and through northern Europe
The number of dead birds in Oulu is on a par with initial reports out
of Qinghai Lake, where most of the dead birds were bar headed geese,
and the number of gulls was considerably lower. Oulu has fifty dead
birds and more dying and these birds represent three species of
gulls. These data strongly suggest that H5N1 wild bird flu has
arrived in Finland.
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