British, Hungarian bird flu outbreaks linked

20-02-2007 | | |

The UK and Hungary have been feuding over the source of the British contamination, which led to the destruction of 160,000 turkeys in Britain.

Tests on H5N1 bird flu viruses found in Britain and Hungary showed they were genetically almost identical and the most likely transmission route was from poultry to poultry. Hungarian officials dispute British statements saying they had found no evidence that poultry there could have transmitted the virus to Britain. DEFRA said the final results showed a very high similarity (99.96%) at the whole genome level.
“It seems very unlikely that a strain of infection in wild birds could have produced two viruses so closely related,” said scientist John McCauley, of the virology division of the Medical Research Council.
Britain stressed that while the outbreaks were linked it had not found any evidence of illegal or unsafe movements of poultry products from Hungary to Britain and was still investigating all possible routes of transmission. The EU commission also said that while the tests showed the outbreaks were directly linked, that in itself did not explain how the strain came to Britain.
“We are not going to speculate, nor should anybody, as to how it arrived as this is still part of an ongoing investigation. But we reiterate our view that the Hungarian authorities have acted properly and took the right measures,” said Philip Tod, spokesman for EU Health Commission.