Abolnik C. Outbreaks of Clade 18.104.22.168 H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza in 2018 in the northern regions of South Africa were unrelated to those of 2017. Transbound Emerg Dis. 2019 Dec 13.
Asian-origin H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses of the H5 Goose/Guangdong/96 lineage, clade 22.214.171.124 group B reached South Africa by June 2017. By the end of that year, 5.4 million layers and broiler chickens died or were culled, with total losses in the poultry industry estimated at US$ 140 million, and thousands of exotic birds in zoological collections, endangered endemic species and backyard poultry and pet birds also perished. The 2017 H5N8 HPAI outbreaks were characterised by two distinct spatial clusters, each associated with specific reassortant viral genotypes. Genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 5 were restricted to the northern regions, spanning the provinces of Limpopo, Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State. The second, much larger cluster of outbreaks was in the south, in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, where in 2017 and 2018 outbreaks were caused solely by genotype 4. The last confirmed case of H5N8 HPAI in the northern region in 2017 was in early October, and the viruses seemed to disappear over the summer. However, starting in mid-February 2018, H5N8 HPAI outbreaks resurged in the north. Viruses from two of the eight outbreaks were sequenced, one from an outbreak in quails (Coturnix japonica) in the North West Province, and another from commercial pullets in the Gauteng province. Phylogenetic analysis identified the viruses as a distinct sixth genotype that was most likely a new introduction to South Africa in early 2018.
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