This paper describes the first threats of H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks in Egypt recorded from February to December 2006 in commercial and domestic poultry from different species and summarizes the major characteristics of the outbreak. There were 1024 cases from different poultry species (rural and commercial chickens of different breeding types, turkeys, ducks, geese, and quail) either in commercial breeding or in backyards from different locations in Egypt. All tested positive for the H5N1 subtype. From these cases only 12 avian influenza A viruses were isolated and characterized from samples collected during outbreaks. All isolates were characterized, and the data confirmed that the isolated viruses belong to highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N1. Full hemagglutinin (HA) gene (segment 4) sequencing was also done, and the sequences of these isolates were compared with other strains from Russia, Africa, and the Middle East. The data revealed that all Egyptian strains were very closely related and belonging to subclade 2.2 of the H5N1 virus of Eurasian origin, the same one circulating in the Middle East region and introduced into Africa at the beginning of 2006. This study showed evidence of the wide spread of H5N1 virus infection in domestic poultry in Egypt within a short time. The most obvious features of these outbreaks were severe clinical signs and high mortalities as well as very rapid and widespread occurrence within the country in a very short time. The possible causes of its rapid spread and prospects of disease control are discussed.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2