Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5N8 and H5N1 subtypes were detected in the Netherlands in October 2020. The HA genes of the two viruses are closely related, but the other genes of the H5N1 viruses appear to originate from other virus lineages circulating in Eurasia. The earliest virus detections were on 16 October in Eurasian wigeons, a long-distance migrant, and four full virus genomes were uploaded to GISAID by late October.
The virus genome sequences are suggestive for new virus introductions into the EU, different from the outbreaks of last winter. Previously, scientists from the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses used GISAID data to investigate the role of migratory wild birds in the global spread of avian influenza H5N8 in 2014/2015 (Science 354:213-7, 2016) and to investigate the spread of multiple reassortants during the 2016/2017 H5 avian influenza epidemic in Eurasia (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 117:20814-25, 2020). Similar analyses may provide scientific insights on the current outbreak.
Eurasian wigean (Mareca penelope)
Photo Credit: pixaba