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Final confirmation of avian flu virus strain

by 5m Editor
13 February 2007, at 4:27pm

UK - Deputy chief vet Fred Landeg today (13 February) confirmed that the laboratory analysis of the Suffolk and Hungary H5N1 avian influenza viruses is now complete.

The Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA) analysis has revealed a very high similarity (99.96%) between the H5N1 viruses found in Suffolk and the Hungarian outbreaks at the whole genome level. These results indicate that the viruses are essentially identical.

“Although other European viruses have shown close relationships to these viruses, these levels of identity are much closer than with other Asian lineage H5 viruses for which data is available, including those isolated from wild birds in Europe in 2005/06,” VLA chief avian virologist Ian Brown said.

“The comparison between the UK and Hungarian viruses reveals a high level of genetic match which cannot be said of other European virus strains.”

Fred Landeg added: “I am grateful for the hard work of the VLA which has informed our investigation and current working hypothesis that poultry to poultry transmission is the most likely source of the outbreak. However, I must reiterate that we are not discounting any line of enquiry and this is an ongoing investigation.”

Public health and food safety aspects
On the public health aspects of the investigation Dame Deirdre Hutton (chair of the Food Standards Agency) commented:

"The investigation so far has not found anything that raises the risk to public health.It is still a possibility that infected poultry has entered the food chain but the risk to public health remains low.”

5m Editor