CIDRAP — WHO updates H7N9 cases as study reveals possible vector

Lisa Schnirring | Staff Writer | CIDRAP News | Mar 12, 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday said that China on Mar 9 notified it of 59 more lab-confirmed H7N9 avian influenza infections, 17 of them fatal, and US researchers noted that the virus can easily pass between finches and quail.

Several Chinese provinces and cities have been announcing confirmations of new H7N9 cases as they occur, but little detailed overall information has come from the central government during the third wave of infections, which started in October, except for periodic updates to the WHO.
. . .

In other H7N9 developments, researchers from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., yesterday reported that the virus can spread easily between finches and quail through shared water, suggesting that passerine birds may be vectors that spread the virus to poultry. The team published its findings in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The group had previously shown that finches, sparrows, and parakeets are susceptible to the virus and can shed H7N9 into water. In their follow-up study, they tested interspecies transmission between finches and chickens and between finches and quail in adjoining cages with and without a shared water source. The researchers used both human and avian H7N9 viruses.

They found that waterborne, but not airborne, transmission of both human and avian H7N9 viruses occurred between the finches and poultry, but the quail were more susceptible than the chickens. The group concluded that finches, and probably other small birds, can spread the virus to poultry through shared water sources.
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Click HERE for the complete article.
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2015/03/who-updates-h7n9-cases-study-reveals-possible-vector

CIDRAP — Role of wild birds in US H5N2 outbreaks questioned

Robert Roos | News Editor | CIDRAP News | Mar 18, 2015

The notion that wild birds played a key role in bringing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses from Asia to western North America and more recently to the Midwest has been implicit in government statements about recent outbreaks. But some wildlife disease experts are warning against jumping to easy conclusions.

The story goes back to last November and December, when an HPAI H5N2 virus struck several poultry farms in southern British Columbia. Those outbreaks triggered increased surveillance for avian flu in the United States, and a matching virus showed up in December in a wild northern pintail duck in northwestern Washington state. At the same time, a Eurasian strain of H5N8 virus was found in a captive gyrfalcon in the same area.

Subsequently the H5N2 virus surfaced in several backyard poultry flocks and wild birds in Oregon and Idaho as well as Washington. And this month it popped up on a western Minnesota turkey farm and shortly afterward on two Missouri turkey farms, an Arkansas turkey farm, and a backyard flock in Kansas. The H5N2 strain is described as a product of mixing (reassortment) between the Eurasian H5N8 virus and native North American avian flu viruses.

In a Mar 11 announcement about the Arkansas outbreak, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said, “These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife.”

Last week the USDA reported that the Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas H5N2 isolates looked more than 99% similar to the Washington pintail duck virus, based on partial genetic sequencing of the virus’s hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins. The apparent implication was that migratory birds may have brought the virus to those states.

Wild bird chase?
But not so fast, say experts like David Stallknecht, PhD, of the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Michele Carstensen, PhD, wildlife health program supervisor in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They point out, among other things, that migratory birds don’t migrate from west to east or from north to south in late winter.

“This could all have been from wild birds—nobody can say it’s impossible,” said Stallknecht. “But we do need some proof. . . . People seem to be willing to accept things without a whole lot of proof.”
. . .

For the complete article, click HERE.
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2015/03/role-wild-birds-us-h5n2-outbreaks-questioned

Emergence and Evolution of H10 Subtype Influenza Viruses in Poultry in China

Chi Maa,b,c, Tommy Tsan-Yuk Lamb, Yujuan Chaib, Jia Wanga,b, Xiaohui Fand, Wenshan Honga, Yu Zhanga,b, Lifeng Lia,b, Yongmei Liub, David K. Smithb, Richard J. Webbye, Joseph S. M. Peirisb,c, Huachen Zhua,b,c and Yi Guana,b,c
aJoint Influenza Research Centre (SUMC/HKU), Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, China
bCentre of Influenza Research, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
cState Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases (Shenzhen Branch), Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital, Shenzhen, China
dDepartment of Microbiology, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China
eDivision of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
R. M. Sandri-Goldin, Editor

ABSTRACT
The cases of human infections with H10N8 viruses identified in late 2013 and early 2014 in Jiangxi, China, have raised concerns over the origin, prevalence, and development of these viruses in this region. Our long-term influenza surveillance of poultry and migratory birds in southern China in the past 12 years showed that H10 influenza viruses have been introduced from migratory to domestic ducks over several winter seasons at sentinel duck farms at Poyang Lake, where domestic ducks share their water body with overwintering migratory birds. H10 viruses were never detected in terrestrial poultry in our survey areas until August 2013, when they were identified at live-poultry markets in Jiangxi. Since then, we have isolated 124 H10N8 or H10N6 viruses from chickens at local markets, revealing an ongoing outbreak. Phylogenetic analysis of H10 and related viruses showed that the chicken H10N8 viruses were generated through multiple reassortments between H10 and N8 viruses from domestic ducks and the enzootic chicken H9N2 viruses. These chicken reassortant viruses were highly similar to the human isolate, indicating that market chickens were the source of human infection. Recently, the H10 viruses further reassorted, apparently with H5N6 viruses, and generated an H10N6 variant. The emergence and prevalence of H10 viruses in chickens and the occurrence of human infections provide direct evidence of the threat from the current influenza ecosystem in China.

IMPORTANCE
After the outbreak of avian-origin H7N9 influenza viruses in China, fatal human infections with a novel H10N8 virus were reported. Utilizing data from 12 years of influenza surveillance in southern China, we showed that H10 viruses were regularly introduced by migratory ducks to domestic ducks on Poyang Lake, a major aggregative site of migratory birds in Asia. The H10 viruses were maintained and amplified in domestic ducks and then transmitted to chickens and reassorted with enzootic H9N2 viruses, leading to an outbreak and human infections at live-poultry markets. The emergence of the H10N8 virus, following a pathway similar to that of the recent H7N9 virus, highlights the role of domestic ducks and the current influenza ecosystem in China that facilitates influenza viruses moving from their reservoir hosts through the live-poultry system to cause severe consequences for public health.

Click HERE to access the complete article.
http://jvi.asm.org/content/89/7/3534

A bird’s eye view of human language evolution

Robert C. Berwick1,2*, Gabriël J. L. Beckers3, Kazuo Okanoya4 and Johan J. Bolhuis5
1 Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
2 Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
3 Department of Behavioural Neurobiology, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany
4 Department of Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
5 Behavioural Biology, Helmholtz Institute, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Comparative studies of linguistic faculties in animals pose an evolutionary paradox: language involves certain perceptual and motor abilities, but it is not clear that this serves as more than an input–output channel for the externalization of language proper. Strikingly, the capability for auditory–vocal learning is not shared with our closest relatives, the apes, but is present in such remotely related groups as songbirds and marine mammals. There is increasing evidence for behavioral, neural, and genetic similarities between speech acquisition and birdsong learning. At the same time, researchers have applied formal linguistic analysis to the vocalizations of both primates and songbirds. What have all these studies taught us about the evolution of language? Is the comparative study of an apparently species-specific trait like language feasible? We argue that comparative analysis remains an important method for the evolutionary reconstruction and causal analysis of the mechanisms underlying language. On the one hand, common descent has been important in the evolution of the brain, such that avian and mammalian brains may be largely homologous, particularly in the case of brain regions involved in auditory perception, vocalization, and auditory memory. On the other hand, there has been convergent evolution of the capacity for auditory–vocal learning, and possibly for structuring of external vocalizations, such that apes lack the abilities that are shared between songbirds and humans. However, significant limitations to this comparative analysis remain. While all birdsong may be classified in terms of a particularly simple kind of concatenation system, the regular languages, there is no compelling evidence to date that birdsong matches the characteristic syntactic complexity of human language, arising from the composition of smaller forms like words and phrases into larger ones.

Click HERE for the complete article.
http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnevo.2012.00005/full

Ohio’s Country Journal — Avian influenza detected in Mississippi migratory bird flyway

Following recent announcements confirming the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI H5) in commercial turkey flocks in the Mississippi migratory bird flyway, State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey is urging Ohio poultry owners to take extra precautions and to monitor their birds for signs of illness. The recommendations are given out of an abundance of caution as there have been no detections in Ohio and no human infections are associated with these viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low.
. . .
All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to their veterinarian immediately.

Good biosecurity practices for poultry owners include the following:

Monitor flocks for unusual signs of illness such as “snicking” (sneezing,) a 1 percent or more decrease in egg production, or an increase in mortality. Other signs to look for are wheezing, lethargy, and depression.
Practice personal biosecurity and avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.
Keep unauthorized visitors from having contact with poultry, a good practice whether there is a disease threat or not. Authorized persons should be required to wear protective clothing and shoes before entering a commercial poultry house.
Avoid contact between your birds and wild birds whenever possible due to the likely migratory nature of HPAI H5. These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick.
Clean and disinfect farm vehicles or equipment before moving them on and off your property.
If traveling with birds to a poultry show this spring, Forshey recommends taking extra care to keep transport and housing areas clean, minimize opportunities for birds to co-mingle and quarantine birds for at least 21 days before reintroducing them to a flock.
. . .
Click HERE for the complete article.
http://ocj.com/2015/03/avian-influenza-detected-in-mississippi-migratory-bird-flyway/

Outbreak News Today — Vigilance over bird flu advised: KSU animal scientist

Posted by Staff on March 13, 2015
Outbreak News Today

Poultry owners should be aware that there is currently an outbreak of the H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) associated with the migratory bird flyways in the United States, said Kansas State University animal scientist Scott Beyer.

“Migratory fowl move north and south all over the earth through flyways as they move from nesting and feeding grounds,” said Beyer, who is a poultry specialist with K-State Research and Extension. “When they comingle in these areas, the avian influenza virus can sometimes be shared between the birds, which then return to their respective flyways bringing new variants of the virus which may have originated from other continents. Although this particular variant of the avian virus (H5N2) is more pathogenic than others, there have been no incidences of the virus spreading to other species or people. As is often the case, this virus has so far not been associated with actual disease symptoms in the migratory fowl so they should be considered potential carriers of the virus that is pathogenic to domesticated poultry.”

Wild birds are not the only threat

“Rodents are also sources of diseases,” Beyer said. “They are nocturnal, so usually show up after dark to scavenge leftover feed and you may not even know they are there. You should control rodent populations as much as possible using rodenticides or with the help of an exterminator.”

Click HERE to read the complete article.
http://outbreaknewstoday.com/vigilance-over-bird-flu-advised-ksu-animal-scientist-74172/

Journal of Virology — Emergence and Evolution of H10 Subtype Influenza Viruses in Poultry in China

Chi Maa,b,c, Tommy Tsan-Yuk Lamb, Yujuan Chaib, Jia Wanga,b, Xiaohui Fand, Wenshan Honga, Yu Zhanga,b, Lifeng Lia,b, Yongmei Liub, David K. Smithb, Richard J. Webbye, Joseph S. M. Peirisb,c, Huachen Zhua,b,c and Yi Guana,b,c
aJoint Influenza Research Centre (SUMC/HKU), Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, China
bCentre of Influenza Research, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
cState Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases (Shenzhen Branch), Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital, Shenzhen, China
dDepartment of Microbiology, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China
eDivision of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
R. M. Sandri-Goldin, Editor
+ Author Affiliations

ABSTRACT
The cases of human infections with H10N8 viruses identified in late 2013 and early 2014 in Jiangxi, China, have raised concerns over the origin, prevalence, and development of these viruses in this region. Our long-term influenza surveillance of poultry and migratory birds in southern China in the past 12 years showed that H10 influenza viruses have been introduced from migratory to domestic ducks over several winter seasons at sentinel duck farms at Poyang Lake, where domestic ducks share their water body with overwintering migratory birds. H10 viruses were never detected in terrestrial poultry in our survey areas until August 2013, when they were identified at live-poultry markets in Jiangxi. Since then, we have isolated 124 H10N8 or H10N6 viruses from chickens at local markets, revealing an ongoing outbreak. Phylogenetic analysis of H10 and related viruses showed that the chicken H10N8 viruses were generated through multiple reassortments between H10 and N8 viruses from domestic ducks and the enzootic chicken H9N2 viruses. These chicken reassortant viruses were highly similar to the human isolate, indicating that market chickens were the source of human infection. Recently, the H10 viruses further reassorted, apparently with H5N6 viruses, and generated an H10N6 variant. The emergence and prevalence of H10 viruses in chickens and the occurrence of human infections provide direct evidence of the threat from the current influenza ecosystem in China.

IMPORTANCE After the outbreak of avian-origin H7N9 influenza viruses in China, fatal human infections with a novel H10N8 virus were reported. Utilizing data from 12 years of influenza surveillance in southern China, we showed that H10 viruses were regularly introduced by migratory ducks to domestic ducks on Poyang Lake, a major aggregative site of migratory birds in Asia. The H10 viruses were maintained and amplified in domestic ducks and then transmitted to chickens and reassorted with enzootic H9N2 viruses, leading to an outbreak and human infections at live-poultry markets. The emergence of the H10N8 virus, following a pathway similar to that of the recent H7N9 virus, highlights the role of domestic ducks and the current influenza ecosystem in China that facilitates influenza viruses moving from their reservoir hosts through the live-poultry system to cause severe consequences for public health.
. . .
Click HERE to access the Journal of Virology Paper.
http://jvi.asm.org/content/89/7/3534.abstract

MIT — Paper amplifies hypothesis that human language builds on birdsong and speech forms of other primates

PUBLIC RELEASE: 11-JUN-2014
New paper amplifies hypothesis on human language’s deep origins
Amplifies hypothesis that human language builds on birdsong and speech forms of other primates

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

On the island of Java, in Indonesia, the silvery gibbon, an endangered primate, lives in the rainforests. In a behavior that’s unusual for a primate, the silvery gibbon sings: It can vocalize long, complicated songs, using 14 different note types, that signal territory and send messages to potential mates and family.

Far from being a mere curiosity, the silvery gibbon may hold clues to the development of language in humans. In a newly published paper, two MIT professors assert that by re-examining contemporary human language, we can see indications of how human communication could have evolved from the systems underlying the older communication modes of birds and other primates.

From birds, the researchers say, we derived the melodic part of our language, and from other primates, the pragmatic, content-carrying parts of speech. Sometime within the last 100,000 years, those capacities fused into roughly the form of human language that we know today.

But how? Other animals, it appears, have finite sets of things they can express; human language is unique in allowing for an infinite set of new meanings. What allowed unbounded human language to evolve from bounded language systems?

“How did human language arise? It’s far enough in the past that we can’t just go back and figure it out directly,” says linguist Shigeru Miyagawa, the Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture at MIT. “The best we can do is come up with a theory that is broadly compatible with what we know about human language and other similar systems in nature.”

Specifically, Miyagawa and his co-authors think that some apparently infinite qualities of modern human language, when reanalyzed, actually display the finite qualities of languages of other animals — meaning that human communication is more similar to that of other animals than we generally realized.

“Yes, human language is unique, but if you take it apart in the right way, the two parts we identify are in fact of a finite state,” Miyagawa says. “Those two components have antecedents in the animal world. According to our hypothesis, they came together uniquely in human language.”

Introducing the ‘integration hypothesis’

The current paper, “The Integration Hypothesis of Human Language Evolution and the Nature of Contemporary Languages,” is published this week in Frontiers in Psychology. The authors are Miyagawa; Robert Berwick, a professor of computational linguistics and computer science and engineering in MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems; and Shiro Ojima and Kazuo Okanoya, scholars at the University of Tokyo.

The paper’s conclusions build on past work by Miyagawa, which holds that human language consists of two distinct layers: the expressive layer, which relates to the mutable structure of sentences, and the lexical layer, where the core content of a sentence resides. That idea, in turn, is based on previous work by linguistics scholars including Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Hale, and Samuel Jay Keyser.

The expressive layer and lexical layer have antecedents, the researchers believe, in the languages of birds and other mammals, respectively. For instance, in another paper published last year, Miyagawa, Berwick, and Okanoya presented a broader case for the connection between the expressive layer of human language and birdsong, including similarities in melody and range of beat patterns.

Birds, however, have a limited number of melodies they can sing or recombine, and nonhuman primates have a limited number of sounds they make with particular meanings. That would seem to present a challenge to the idea that human language could have derived from those modes of communication, given the seemingly infinite expression possibilities of humans.

But the researchers think certain parts of human language actually reveal finite-state operations that may be linked to our ancestral past. Consider a linguistic phenomenon known as “discontiguous word formation,” which involve sequences formed using the prefix “anti,” such as “antimissile missile,” or “anti-antimissile missile missile,” and so on. Some linguists have argued that this kind of construction reveals the infinite nature of human language, since the term “antimissile” can continually be embedded in the middle of the phrase.

However, as the researchers state in the new paper, “This is not the correct analysis.” The word “antimissile” is actually a modifier, meaning that as the phrase grows larger, “each successive expansion forms via strict adjacency.” That means the construction consists of discrete units of language. In this case and others, Miyagawa says, humans use “finite-state” components to build out their communications.

The complexity of such language formations, Berwick observes, “doesn’t occur in birdsong, and doesn’t occur anywhere else, as far as we can tell, in the rest of the animal kingdom.” Indeed, he adds, “As we find more evidence that other animals don’t seem to posses this kind of system, it bolsters our case for saying these two elements were brought together in humans.”

An inherent capacity

To be sure, the researchers acknowledge, their hypothesis is a work in progress. After all, Charles Darwin and others have explored the connection between birdsong and human language. Now, Miyagawa says, the researchers think that “the relationship is between birdsong and the expression system,” with the lexical component of language having come from primates. Indeed, as the paper notes, the most recent common ancestor between birds and humans appears to have existed about 300 million years ago, so there would almost have to be an indirect connection via older primates — even possibly the silvery gibbon.

As Berwick notes, researchers are still exploring how these two modes could have merged in humans, but the general concept of new functions developing from existing building blocks is a familiar one in evolution.

“You have these two pieces,” Berwick says. “You put them together and something novel emerges. We can’t go back with a time machine and see what happened, but we think that’s the basic story we’re seeing with language.”

Miyagawa acknowledges that research and discussion in the field will continue, but says he hopes colleagues will engage with the integration hypothesis.

“It’s worthy of being considered, and then potentially challenged,” Miyagawa says.

###

Washington Post — Dozens of countries ban poultry from Minnesota after outbreak of avian flu

March 6 at 7:55 PM
TURKEY FARMING
Avian flu leads to ban on Minnesota poultry
More than 40 countries have banned poultry imports from Minnesota after a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza wiped out a flock of 15,000 birds in about a week.

Health officials in the country’s largest turkey-producing state said farmers are taking extra precautions and the strain is unlikely to infect humans. The head of the state’s turkey farming association said he’s “guardedly optimistic” the flu can be contained. But the rapid action in Europe, Central America and elsewhere could jeopardize up to about $100 million in international exports.

Click HERE for the complete article.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/dozens-of-countries-ban-poultry-from-minnesota-after-outbreak-of-avian-flu/2015/03/06/3001c756-c44c-11e4-9271-610273846239_story.html

CIDRAP — Avian flu in South Korea, Taiwan prompts massive culling

Robert Roos | News Editor | CIDRAP News | Mar 05, 2015

South Korea and Taiwan have destroyed more than 2.7 million poultry in recent weeks and months in efforts to halt highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks of the H5N8 and H5N2 varieties, according to reports posted yesterday by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In addition, South Vietnam has reported another H5N1 avian flu outbreak, and low-pathogenicity avian flu (LPAI) H7N7 recently struck a turkey farm in Germany, according to media and OIE reports.

Click HERE for the complete article.
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2015/03/avian-flu-south-korea-taiwan-prompts-massive-culling