China reports highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu at chicken farm: OIE

BEIJING/PARIS (Reuters) - China reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu at a farm in its northwest Qinghai province, the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday, citing a report from the Chinese agriculture ministry.

It is the first case of the H5N1 strain of flu to be reported on a Chinese poultry farm since 2014, according to a Reuters search of OIE’s database of notices from the Chinese agriculture ministry.

But the virus has been reported in Nepal and Bhutan this year, both countries that share borders with China’s northwest.

The virus killed 1,050 broiler chickens out of a flock of 1,615 at a farm in the Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan autonomous prefecture. The remaining birds were killed and disposed of, the ministry said.

Some strains of the often lethal H5N1 virus can be transmitted to humans. The case is the sixth case of highly pathogenic bird flu reported by China this year, compared with just four cases reported to the OIE in 2017, according to its website.

Most of the cases reported in China this year have been a highly pathogenic form of H7N9, the same strain that killed hundreds of people in China last year, hitting consumer demand and leaving the egg and broiler industries reeling.

The virus did not have a big impact on poultry last year but has mutated into a more lethal form. All four H7N9 cases reported this year were on layer farms - or farms producing eggs - with the most recent case killing more than 9,000 hens in northeastern Liaoning province.

That’s despite a nationwide vaccination program against the virus that began last autumn.

China also reported a case of the H5N6 strain on a duck farm in March. nL5N1QP5HK]

Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in PARIS and Dominique Patton in BEIJING; Editing by Gus Trompiz and Kenneth Maxwell