Avian flu

H5N1 virus outbreak in migratory waterfowl

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A worrying development could help to spread this dangerous virus beyond its stronghold in southeast Asia.


The highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus has become endemic in poultry in southeast Asia since 2003 and constitutes a major pandemic threat to humans1. Here we describe cases of disease caused by H5N1 and transmission of the virus among migratory geese populations in western China. This outbreak may help to spread the virus over and beyond the Himalayas and has important implications for developing control strategies.

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Figure 1: H5N1 flu strains in wild birds in western China.


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    World Health Organization Inter-country Consultation Influenza A/H5N1 in Humans in Asia, Manila, May 6–7 2005http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/H5N1IntercountryAssessment.pdf (2005).

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    Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Avian Influenza Disease Emergency Bulletin Issue 30http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/en/health/diseases-cards/avian_update.html (2005).

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    Hatta, M., Gao, P., Halfmann, P. & Kawaoka, Y. Science 293, 1773–1775 (2001).

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    Clements, J. F. Birds of the World: A Checklist (Ibis, Vista, California, 2000).

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Correspondence to Y. Guan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Chen, H., Smith, G., Zhang, S. et al. H5N1 virus outbreak in migratory waterfowl. Nature 436, 191–192 (2005) doi:10.1038/nature03974

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