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High rates of detection of Clade 2.3.4.4 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5 viruses in wild birds in the Pacific Northwest during the winter of 2014-2015

April 6, 2016

In 2014, Clade 2.3.4.4 H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses spread across the Republic of Korea and ultimately were reported in China, Japan, Russia and Europe. Mortality associated with a reassortant HPAI H5N2 virus was detected in poultry farms in Western Canada at the end of November. The same strain (with identical genetic structure) was then detected in free-living wild birds that had died prior to December 8 of unrelated causes in Whatcom County, Washington, USA in an area contiguous with the index Canadian location. A gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) that had hunted and fed on an American wigeon (Anas americana) on December 6 in the same area and died two days later, tested positive for the Eurasian origin HPAI H5N8. Subsequently, an Active Surveillance Program using hunter-harvest waterfowl in Washington and Oregon detected ten HPAI H5 viruses, of three different subtypes (four H5N2, three H5N8 and three H5N1) with 4 segments in common (HA, PB2, NP and MA). In addition, a mortality-based Passive Surveillance Program detected 18 HPAI (14 H5N2 and four H5N8) cases from Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Wisconsin. Comparatively, mortality-based passive surveillance appears to be detecting these HPAI infections at a higher rate than active surveillance during the period following initial introduction into the US.