Usui T, et al. Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in zoo birds caused by HA clade 18.104.22.168 H5N6 subtype viruses in Japan in winter 2016. Transbound Emerg Dis. 2019 Oct 11.
In late 2016, two zoos, one in northern Japan and the other in central Japan, experienced highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks, in which multiple zoo birds were infected with H5N6 subtype HPAI virus (HPAIV). Here, we report an overview of these HPAI outbreaks. HPAIV infections were confirmed by virus isolation in three black swans (Cygnus atratus) and three snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) kept in the Omoriyama Zoo hospital. At Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, following the death of a black swan at a zoo pond, nine waterfowl, including two black swans, four cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia), two mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), and a wigeon (Anas penelope), died after HPAIV infection in isolation facilities. Based on the presence of H5-specific antibodies in their sera, two surviving black swans and a surviving mallard at Higashiyama Zoo appeared to have HPAIV infection, although the virus was not isolated. Detectable levels of antibodies (≥10 HI) were maintained for at least five to nine months, as determined by hemagglutinin inhibition test. Isolation of two H5N6 subtype HPAIVs from an open-air pond where affected zoo birds were previously housed at Higashiyama Zoo strongly indicates that wild waterfowl associated with aquatic environments brought the virus to the zoo. The phylogenetic relationships of the 18 isolates indicated direct viral transmission among birds within each zoo. In both zoos, containment of suspected birds in isolation facilities might have allowed the virus spread among birds inside the facility. However, maintaining containment measures and strict sanitation procedures could facilitate successful physical containment and clearance of HPAIV in both zoos.
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