November 19, 2014 / 5:20 PM / 5 years ago

OIE says European bird flu viruses similar to Korean one

An official sprays ducks during a cull at a duck farm in Nafferton, northern England November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

PARIS (Reuters) - Tests show that bird flu viruses found in Germany, the Netherlands and Britain are similar to one that devastated poultry flocks in South Korea earlier this year, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Wednesday.

“They are very, very close, which reinforces the theory of a transmission through migrating birds,” OIE Director General Bernard Vallat told Reuters, adding that genetic analyses had pegged similarities at 99.8 percent.

Investigations were underway to determine which wild bird species, such as ducks, geese or swans, could be responsible for carrying the disease over to Europe.

“Every bird has a different migratory path and it changes every year,” Vallat said.

On Monday the highly contagious strain of bird flu H5N8 was confirmed on an English duck farm, the same form of the virus already discovered in Germany and the Netherlands.

Health officials had said the H5N8 virus, which has never been detected in humans, may have been brought to Europe by wild birds migrating from Asia, notably South Korea, where millions of farm birds have had to be destroyed, but a direct link had not been clearly established.

Additional tests were being done on the H5N8 strains found in China and Japan earlier this year.

Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Susan Thomas

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