Hungary and Suffolk bird flu viruses virtually identical

Defra has now confirmed that the laboratory analysis of the Bernards Matthews Suffolk farm and Hungary H5N1 viruses is now complete and that the two are virtually identical.

Defra has now confirmed that the laboratory analysis of the Bernards Matthews Suffolk farm and Hungary H5N1 viruses is now complete and that the two are virtually identical.

The Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA) analysis has revealed a very high similarity 99.96% between the H5N1 viruses found in Suffolk and the Hungarian outbreaks at the whole genome level. Defra said these results indicate that the viruses are essentially identical.

VLA chief avian virologist Ian Brown said: "Although other European viruses have shown close relationships to these viruses, these levels of identity are much closer than with other Asian lineage H5 viruses for which data is available, including those isolated from wild birds in Europe in 2005/06.

"The comparison between the UK and Hungarian viruses reveals a high level of genetic match which cannot be said of other European virus strains."

Deputy Chief Vet, Fred Landeg reiterated that Defra was not discounting any line of enquiry although the work VLA has informed the current working hypothesis that poultry to poultry transmission is the most likely source of the outbreak.

Defra added in a press statement: "There is an on-going investigation into what might have been the source of this outbreak.

"We have not found any evidence of illegal or unsafe movements of poultry products from Hungary to the UK. However, the analysis of the strain of the virus does show an essentially identical strain to that found in the recent outbreak in geese in Hungary. It does not share the same degree of similarity with other recent AI outbreaks in poultry or wild birds. We are sharing this analysis, confirmed by the VLA today, with the Hungarian authorities.

"We are still investigating all possible routes of transmission. We have not ruled anything out."

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