Dossier Anoxia: N2GF equipment commercially available in Benelux and Germany

Marking March 31 2015 as the official launching date, the First series of Anoxia Foam systems that will be officially branded as N2GF equipment is now commercially available in Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Anoxia Foam is a new and promising technique to euthanize farm animals with less negative impact on animal welfare. This was the conclusion of the veterinarians participating in the first course on Anoxia technology that was held last February in Barneveld, Netherlands. The Anoxia Foam technique consists of stunning animals in nitrogen gas foam, causing loss of consciousness within 20 – 30 seconds without stress. Poultry vets from Netherlands, Belgium and Germany joined the training that was accredited by the Royal Dutch Society of Veterinary Science.

N2GF systems consist of a high-expansion foam nozzle, fed with nitrogen from a high-pressure gas cylinder or from a nitrogen generator that produces nitrogen on the spot. The nitrogen generator has been specifically designed for use in a poultry house atmosphere by Parker Hannifin, the world leading company in this area.

The N2GF systems are now launched by Anoxia Europe BV in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany (Lower Saxony and Nord Rhine-Westphalia). Anoxia Europe will be coordinating development of the N2GF technique in consultation with veterinary authorities and will be sharing best practices across Europe. Certified veterinarians will support a proper use of the N2GF system to safeguard animal welfare, in implementation of the relevant EU Regulation 1099/2009.

40 complete N2GF systems will be tested in everyday practice on a variety of poultry farms for stunning and euthanizing of parent stock, turkeys, ducks, layers and broilers. For a special introductory offer, see www.anoxia-europe.com

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For more information contact Dr Michiel van Mil, Anoxia Europe, at
info@anoxia-europe.com or +31-3417016876

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Dossier H5N2: Questionable role for hunters in introducing AI at US farms

In the U.S. new strains of avian flu that are highly infectious among birds have been found on commercial turkey farms in many states, as The Wall Street Journal has reported. An initial outbreak of H5N8 detected in a Californian turkey flock in January has mixed with North American avian flu strains to generate two new strains, including H5N2, which has been detected along the Pacific bird migration route in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that H5N2 had been detected in Minnesota, the first instance of the disease in the Mississippi bird migration route. The virus has spread further to commercial turkey farms in Missouri and Arkansas, including to suppliers of Butterball turkeys.

In an editorial, published online at chick-site.com – March 25, 2015, Dr. Simon M. Shane questions the role of field researchers in transmitting infections from wildlife reservoirs to commercial farms. A March 13th article published by Reuters authored by Tom Polansek highlights questions by wildlife biologists as to the status of migratory waterfowl as reservoirs of H5N2 Avian Influenza which has been isolated from turkey farms in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas.

It is an irrefutable fact that identical strains of the pathogen have been isolated from affected turkey farms and from waterfowl. The weight of molecular evidence extending back to 2012 indicates the role of migratory birds in the process of genetic reassortment and dissemination from Asia along the Pacific Flyway.

Dr. Brian McCluskey, Lead Epidemiologist for the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stated “we are pointing right now to ducks as the problem.” Exhaustive assays using advanced analytical techniques including gene sequencing have indicated that the H5N2 virus is carried by waterfowl along the Mississippi Flyway and now more recently the Central Flyway, northward from the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Hon Ip a Microbiologist for the National Wildlife Health Center questions the conclusions of the epidemiologists stating “when you are talking about where I would put my money I would say that North to South movement (of infection-Ed.) in the beginning of March totally does not make sense.” The fact that the sequence of infections as confirmed was from North to South, ie. the first case from Minnesota (March 4th) then Missouri (March 9th and 10th) followed by Arkansas (March 11th) all within a short period does not preclude that birds migrating Northwards are transmitting the disease.

Epidemiologic investigations take into account both spatial (location) and temporal (time sequence) factors. It is possible that different groups of ducks, whether by species or age cohort are transmitting virus intra-flock or excreting virus at different rates. Given the small number of outbreaks reported, it is not possible to draw any conclusions such as those expressed by Dr. Ip.

Lou Comicelli, Wildlife Research Manager for the Minnesota Division of Fish and Wildlife stated “it is extraordinary unlikely that avian influenza in a turkey flock in Minnesota has anything to do with wild birds.” This statement is totally unsubstantiated and in fact is contradicted by established scientific investigations. These involved studies on the patterns of seroconversion following infection of range-housed turkeys and sentinels in Minnesota. Strains of avian influenza of low pathogenicity were common to turkeys and waterfowl and antibodies in turkeys were detected concurrently with the appearance of migratory species.

Apparently after the diagnosis of AI in Minnesota turkey flocks was confirmed on March 4th, wildlife officials scouted a 15 mile radius around the farm using an aircraft. Apparently they observed 100 ducks and 18 swans that they concluded were non-migratory “resident birds”. Wildlife biologists in Arkansas also doubt the role of migratory birds because the area where the first case was detected in the state “does not attract many wild birds and waterfowl.”

It is incontrovertible that migratory waterfowl are the reservoirs of H5N2 in the current series of outbreaks involving backyard farms and the few commercial turkey units where the disease has been diagnosed. Obviously defects in biosecurity have allowed the virus to be introduced on to those farms. Possible routes include supplying contaminated, non-chlorinated water from open sources to poultry flocks or failure to implement appropriate personal biosecurity. In this respect workers or contractors hunting or those coming in contact with fecal material voided by waterfowl could have been responsible.

Naturally wildlife biologists are in a state of denial since they are directly and indirectly funded by hunting even though they claim that they are conservationists. Any factor which interferes with their status quo represents a risk to their “field research” and wildlife “management”.

We are now in a new era of avian influenza. No longer is our risk represented by a worker traveling North from Mexico or Guatemala. The paradigm shift requires an understanding of the factors associated with infection and persistence of shedding in migratory waterfowl and the factors linking these reservoir populations with commercial poultry. Cooperation and mutual understanding between wildlife biologist and avian epidemiologists will be necessary to establish appropriate policies relating to commercial poultry production and the recreational exploitation of waterfowl. Denial of scientific fact and an inability to comprehend basic epidemiologic principles coupled with disharmony will detract from productive solutions.

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Dossier Taiwan: Reduction risks of spreading of infections during mass outbreaks

During the AI Symposium on managing outbreaks in Taiwan, the main subject was managing the outbreaks without breaching animal welfare during the culling operations. Although it seams impossible, this can be done using the Anoxia method (see also www.N2GF.com for more information), under the condition that the entire process is been taking into account: killing of animals, carcass disposal, transport & logistic, Occupational Health & Safety, environmental issues, pest control, contact between animals and humans: all these factors contribute to the risks of spreading. If one factor fails, the virus can escape and infect the next flock, making it needed to kill more birds. For that reason, all factors are equally important to maintain animal welfare during outbreak situations.

In a number of recently published studies, Professor Stegeman (University of Utrecht, Holland) explains that serologic spreading of viruses is related to human contacts with contaminated infected animals, carcasses, manure and materials infected/suspected animals; movements of farm labourers, products, equipment etc. Most of these contacts (and movements) take place prior, during, and after the culling procedure, whereas the quantity and the intensity of the contacts – thus this human contact/materials are decisive factors for the serologic spreading of viruses to enter farms and most likely play an important role in spreading between farms. Suspicion/infection of farm animals inevitably leads to preventive culling of all farm animals within the direct proximity. For that reason, the serologic spread of viruses has become a major animal welfare indicator that has to be taken into consideration as such.

Each culling procedure features its own unique contact pattern between animals and humans and is based on applied culling, disposal and transport technique. These contact patterns related to the specific combination of applied methods, defines the major contribution factors for spreading of infections. Therefore should the potential risks of these procedures be evaluated and rated on the art and the intensity of the potential contact between animals and humans/materials, prior, during and after the procedure.

Therefore, the entire procedure of killing, disposal and transportation is therefore considered as Major Interest, in terms of animal welfare.

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Dossier AI: Global Poultry Outlook Upbeat

Rabobank has published a new report on the global poultry industry, looking at the impact of avian influenza outbreaks across the sector. In the report, Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research team says that pressure from the avian influenza (AI), or bird flu, is further spreading across the globe, with new outbreaks in Asia, Europe and North America.

Rabobank Animal Protein Analyst, Nan-Dirk Mulder, said: “Avian flu is further spreading across the globe and could affect global trade streams, especially as the virus has moved further in Europe to Hungary, and in the US to central states like Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas. “Joint global approaches, optimal biosecurity, and strong monitoring and compensation systems are necessary to stop the spread of the disease,” he added

Global Outlook

The margin outlook for the global poultry industry remains upbeat, with continuing bullish drivers like high beef prices, lower feed costs and relatively strong demand in most regions.

Global trade is under pressure from the AI outbreaks. The exchange rate volatility and turmoil in regions such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, are leading to lower trade volumes, prices and shifts in trade streams.

United States
The poultry sector in the US has a favourable outlook but some uncertainties remain. The margins are expected to remain high in 2015. The biggest unknown in 2015 is industry expansion.

Brazil
The Brazilian poultry market began 2015 bullish despite of the export challenges. The lower oil price will hit the Middle East demand. Still, exports are expected to be strong in 2015, mostly driven by Asia. Margins will be supported by a reduction in feed costs as well.

Europe
The EU poultry industry shows some recovery and, although supply is currently tight, the outlook is threatened by ongoing avian flu concerns and still closed export markets.

China
Entering the first quarter of 2015, China has an ongoing struggle of oversupply due to AI and food safety issues. As a consequence of human AI cases reported, live bird markets were shut down. During the seasonal peak month, poultry retail prices remained flat.

Russia
The Russian market remains very bullish on low supply. The outlook remains strong, with expected ongoing tight market conditions due to expensive, limited imported volumes and restrictions on growth.

Other Regions
Mexico has ongoing AI issues and lower pork prices will soften poultry meat consumption growth.
Japan’s poultry industry is still bullish despite ongoing AI outbreaks.
In Thailand, the export position is supported by a strong Thai baht.

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Dossier Taiwan: H5N2 and H5N8 outbreaks continue to strike Taiwan unexpectedly hard

March 12, 2015: Taiwan reported another nine outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N8 and H5N2 avian influenza, forcing the destruction of more than 80,000 poultry.

In addition, US authorities said the H5N2 virus that cropped up on turkey farms in Missouri and Arkansas this week is a close match for the virus that struck in Minnesota last week and was found in a wild bird in Washington state in December.

Also, in a stroke of apparent catch-up reporting, South Korea today described 47 H5N8 outbreaks that all occurred last year, forcing the destruction of more than half a million poultry. Earlier this month South Korean authorities reported 65 H5N8 outbreaks that dated from September 2014 to January of this year.
Taiwan events

Taiwan, which has battled numerous H5N8 and H5N2 outbreaks this year, was hit by three H5N8 outbreaks in Yunlin and Pingtung counties, in the southern and southwestern parts of the island, according to a report authorities filed with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Of 30, 250 chickens and geese on the affected farms, 15,987 died of the infection, and the rest were destroyed to stifle any further spread, the report said. All three outbreaks started within the first 5 days of March.

In a separate report, Taiwan officials described six H5N2 outbreaks that hit goose, duck, and chicken farms in four counties—Yunlin, Hsinchu, Changhua, and Chaiyi—in late February and early March. The outbreaks killed 15,363 birds, and the remaining 35,327 birds were culled to arrest the virus, the report said. The affected counties are in western and northwestern Taiwan.
South Korea catch-up report

In South Korea’s report to the OIE today, officials profiled a cluster of 40 H5N8 breaks in the centrally located North Cheongchung province, plus seven other outbreaks scattered around the country. It said the outbreaks occurred in February, May, June, and July of 2014, but did not explain why they were not reported earlier.

The sites involved in the 40-outbreak cluster had a total of 458,735 ducks and ostriches, the report said. Only 1,500 birds were sickened by the virus, but the rest were all culled, it said.

In all, the 47 sites involved in the outbreaks had 544,902 poultry, and 544,877 were culled, according to the report. Information on case numbers was lacking for all but one of the outbreaks that were not part of the cluster.
Missouri, Arkansas viruses match Washington one

In other news, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that the H5N2 viruses that struck turkey farms in Missouri and Arkansas this week were more than 99% similar to the isolate found in a northern pintail duck in Washington state in December, as determined by partial genetic sequencing.

The USDA reported the finding in an OIE report posted yesterday. It signaled that the Missouri and Arkansas viruses matched well with the H5N2 virus that hit a Minnesota turkey farm earlier this month, because the USDA had said earlier that the Minnesota virus closely matched the pintail duck isolate.

The report also detailed the poultry death tolls in the Missouri and Arkansas outbreaks. It said the virus killed 3,260 of 23,000 turkeys on the farm in Moniteau County, Mo., 1,925 of 30,100 turkeys at the site in Jasper County, Mo., and 1,766 of 20,020 turkeys on a farm in Boone County, Ark. The surviving turkeys in all the flocks were destroyed.

The report also mentioned the detection of H5N2 in a hunter-killed Canada goose in Jefferson County, Wash.
Minnesota birds test negative

And in another related development, a red-tailed hawk that was found dead in southeastern Minnesota has tested negative for the H5N2 virus, according to Hon Ip, PhD, MS, of the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. The center has invited the submission of wild birds that were found dead so that they can be tested in the hunt for the cause of the Midwestern H5N2 outbreaks.

The hawk was found in Olmsted County in southeastern Minnesota. Ip told CIDRAP News today that avian flu levels in wild birds are typically low at this time of year. “The lack of detection in Minnesota is consistent with what we normally would expect. It just doesn’t help us in terms of finding out how the Pope County [Minn.] facility got infected,” he said.

In an update yesterday, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH) said backyard birds on 30 sites within the 10-kilometer-radius control zone around the affected Minnesota turkey farm all tested negative for the virus. The birds remain under quarantine for further observation.

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Dossier H7N9: virus has been transmitted between humans

A team of virologists, epidemiologists and microbiologists in China has published a study warning that the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus can pass from human to human.

The paper, published in the British Medical Journal, is a case study investigating the apparent transmission of the disease from a father to his daughter, both of whom have since died. It is the first case study of its kind.

“There is great cause for concern in that this is such a lethal form of influenza, we’ve hardly seen anything more lethal”

Peter Openshaw Director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, Director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London.

Although the news will be met with concern in China, where 132 cases have been recorded on the mainland since its outbreak in March across 40 cities, resulting in 43 deaths, it is an incredibly rare instance. It has aways been suspected that other bird influenzas have been passed from human to human on rare occassions. However, as with this rare recorded and researched case, those instances tended to be among genetically related family members, suggesting that those involved have pre-disposed vulnerabilities.

The World Health Organisation issued warnings early this year to the effect that H7N9 is one of the most lethal forms of the bird flu virus, as it appeared to be transmitted far more easily than even the deadly H5N1 virus. “So far it’s been very reassuring not to have signs of human to human transmission, and this is the first well documented case. But we need to appreciate this was a transmission to a blood relative within a family.”

The first cases of H7N9 were reported in early March. Advanced cases present with symptoms including severe pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. It was not until the end of April, more than a month after the outbreak, and 23 deaths later, that the apparent cause of the disease was detected. It had been traced back to live poultry farms in the east, in particular hubs at Zhejiang along the coast.

The H7 was thought to have derived from domestic ducks in the province, and the N5 from wild birds in South Korea. It was after visiting a live poultry farm that the first patient in the new study fell ill in March this year. He had visited the markets regularly, and had also bought six quails that had already been slaughtered by a vendor a week before falling ill. By contrast, the 60-year-old’s daughter had not — as far as anyone involved in the study knows — had any contact with live poultry, aside from two black swans owned by an employee of her property’s management team. Those swans were swabbed, however, and no sign of the virus showed up in samples.

The daughter cared for her father on and off throughout his illness, which was initially not diagnosed as bird flu. In the early stages of his illness she cared for him at home, but also routinely visited him in hospital once admitted. The father, who had a history of hypertension, fell ill on 8 March and deteriortated rapidly from the 18 March. It was on 21 March that the daughter, who had no underlying health issues, fell ill. Multiple courses of antibiotics did not thwart the disease, and she died of multi-organ failure and cardiac arrest on 24 April 2013.

Although the study’s authors admit there’s no way of knowing whether the daughter did in fact have some other contact with poultry (both patients had died by the time the investigation began), they believe the genetic evidence is enough to confirm the transmission from father to daughter.

“Sequence analysis showed that both possessed high degrees of similarity between nucleotide (99.6 percent to 99.9 percent) and amino acid (99.0 percent and 100 percent) sequences,” write the authors. The only other person to provide beside care for the father was his son-in-law (who did not fall ill), along with the doctors and nurses that would have attended to him — further circumstantial evidence suggesting it’s the genetics that’s the key to the human to human transmission. In total 39 hospital workers came into contact with the pair, and none fell ill.

“We know that there are genetic factors that contribute to human to human transmission,” according to Openshaw. “Some people are much more susceptible to flu than others, and that’s the reason it’s such a devastating disease. It’s shared genetic factors that makes people vulnerable.”

Going forward, Openshaw says the public has to realise that although cases of human to human transmission are rare, we should be abiding by standard safety measures stringently, as though infection were a real possibility.

“In hospital when you know someone has it, all precautions are taken in order to protect staff, but actually it’s very rare among most strains for transmission to happen. It’s the reason Sars became so deadly — it transmitted very well to healthcare staff, and other patients.” Openshaw recommends never dropping any kind of safety measures. For instance, some healthcare workers will just wear a mask, and not gloves, or scrubs but not a mask. “Relatives will be caring for their sick and elderly and although absolute protection is very hard to guarantee, we should never drop any measures.”

Openshaw did commend China for managing to curb the spread of the disease quite effectively, after closing a series of poultry markets.

“The Chinese are really good at doing things properly in a way that’s hard to achieve in perhaps more liberal countries, and that should be admired. Whether it comes back again when the season returns is the question. People are holding their breath to see if it truly went away or it’s just a pause, because we know a lot of flu is quite seasonal.”

When it comes to protecting future generations from human to human transmission, Openshaw says we need to be doing more to identify the underlying genetic causes that make some people more vulnerable to infection than others.

“We need to show how much variations in the virus contribute, and how much variations in the human host contribute.” Openshaw is currently working with 45 research groups based in the UK and abroad to find the answer. Eight thousand samples have been gathered from patients hospitalised due to severe flu in London and Liverpool, and the team has just begun to trawl through that data to look for recurring patterns.

A past study published in Nature, of which Openshaw was an author, found that those with the gene IFITM3 and the protein used to encode it, were more likely to be hospitalised because of flu.

“It’s a major risk factor in our hospital study, and that finding has been replicated in Southeast Asia where it’s quite normal to see big variations in IFITM3 — among Han Chinese it’s about 25 percent, and among Japanese there is a variation of up to 40 percent.”

Openshaw says he and his team have a list of around 20 genes that appear to be associated with flu vulnerability, and he hopes to have the opportunity to further investigate samples from the father and daughter, who were not tested for IFITM3.

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Dossier H7N9: Bird Flu Has the Makings of a Pandemic Virus

Scientists in China have identified an influenza virus that they say has the potential to spread around the world, sickening and killing people whose immune systems have never faced a threat like it.

The H7N9 flu emerged in humans in eastern China in February 2013, sickening 133 people and killing about a third of them before winding down in May. It seemed that the outbreak was over, but it reemerged in October 2013 and has been spreading steadily since.

“H7N9 viruses should be considered as a major candidate to emerge as a pandemic strain in humans,” they wrote in a study published Wednesday by the journal Nature.

According to the World Health Organization, 571 people have had laboratory-confirmed H7N9 infections and 212 people have died. All but three cases were in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The others involved a Chinese traveler to Malaysia and two Canadians who had visited China.

The virus developed in birds before spreading to humans. Like the H5N1 bird flu and the H1N1 swine flu, it contains a combination of genes that are new to people.

All flu viruses are made of just eight genes. Two of those genes make the proteins that stud the surface of the virus. Hemagglutinin (H), helps invading flu particles latch on to cells. Once inside, the virus hijacks the host cell’s machinery to make hundreds of copies of itself. When those copies are ready to spread to other cells, the neurominidase (N) protein allows them to get out.

Scientists have identified 18 types of hemagglutinin proteins and 11 types of neurominidase proteins. All of them have infected birds, but only some of them have been documented in people.

So far, H7N9 is spreading primarily among chickens in live-poultry markets, according to the authors of the Nature study. Researchers tested market chickens in 15 cities in the Chinese provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Jiangsu and Shandong. Infected chickens were found in seven of those cities.

What’s more, each of those seven cities also had at least one case of human infection with H7N9, the study authors wrote.

To figure out how this virus managed to make a comeback, the research team sequenced the complete genomes of 438 samples of H7N9 found in poultry, as well as 19 samples taken from human hospital patients in Shenzhen. They also sequenced 263 related bird flu viruses.

The RNA sequences of the hemagglutinin genes confirmed that the H7N9 viruses now circulating are descendants of the viruses that appeared in the spring of 2013. The viruses probably hitched a ride around China inside chickens that were transported along trade routes. The current viruses can be grouped into three categories, or “clades.” All of them are descendants of the viruses that appeared in the spring of 2013.

One of the clades likely originated in the Yangtze River delta region and then spread to other provinces as chickens were transported to distant markets. Another clade was mainly limited to Jiangxi, though it somehow spread to two people in Taiwan.

A third clade has been found in only Guangdong, but it is responsible for more human infections than either of the other two. The proliferation of these viruses suggests it is prevalent in chickens there, according to the study.

When the researchers looked at the neuraminidase genes, they found evidence that multiple strains of H7N9 have been circulating in Guangdong. When two or more flu viruses infect the same body, they can mix and match their genetic material.

Overall, this second wave of H7N9 influenza viruses represents “a major increase in genetic diversity” compared with the viruses in the first wave, the study authors wrote. Unless live poultry markets are permanently closed, merchants stop transporting chickens from region to region, and other control measures are put in place, the virus will “persist and cause a substantial number of severe human infections.”

So far, most people were sickened by handling infected chickens; cases of the virus spreading directly from person to person have been limited. That might change if the virus mutates, as happened with the H1N1 swine flu pandemic that began 2009. Or it might not, like the H5N1 bird flu that emerged in 2003.

But as long as chickens are on the move, it’s a safe bet that H7N9 will spread too, the researchers warned.

“It is probable that the H7N9 virus is now present across most of China,” they wrote. “Given the current pattern of dissemination, it will only be a matter of time before poultry movement spreads this virus beyond China by cross-border trade.”

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Dossier H7N9: AI Virus Transmission between Finches and Poultry

Finches, parakeets and sparrows are the ultimate source of H7N9 avian influenza, a new study concludes. More than 600 people have contracted H7N9 bird flu in China, and more than 200 have died. Most of the people probably caught it from infected chickens, but it hasn’t been clear where chickens pick up the virus.

In laboratory experiments, society finches spread H7N9 from their mouths into water when they drank, researchers report in the April Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Chickens and quail could then be infected by drinking that same water, the researchers found. The virus does not seem to spread between birds through the air. It is unclear how the H7N9 virus re-emerged and how it will develop further; potentially it may become a long-term threat to public health.

The H7N9 viruses have spread from eastern to southern China and become persistent in chickens, which has led to the establishment of multiple regionally distinct lineages with different reassortant genotypes. Repeated introductions of viruses from Zhejiang to other provinces and the presence of H7N9 viruses at live poultry markets have fuelled the recurrence of human infections.

This rapid expansion of the geographical distribution and genetic diversity of the H7N9 viruses poses a direct challenge to current disease control systems. It’s likely to suggest that H7N9 viruses have become enzootic in China and may spread beyond the region, following the pattern previously observed with H5N1 and H9N2 influenza viruses

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