The third outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 in less than seven years affected ostriches of South Africa's Western Cape during 2011. Twenty farms tested PCR positive for the presence of HPAI H5N2 between March and November 2011. Three HPAI H5N2 (AI2114, AI2214, AI2512) and 1 H1N2 (AI2887) viruses were isolated during this period, but H6N2 and H1N2 infections of ostriches were also confirmed by PCR. HPAI H5N2 isolate AI2114 produced an intravenous pathogenicity index (IVPI) score of 1.37 in chickens whereas isolate AI2214 produced an IVPI score of 0.8. The former virus had an additional, predicted N-linked glycosylation site at position 88 of the hemagglutinin protein as well as an E627K mutation in the PB2 protein that was lacking from AI2214. Four variations at HA0 were detected in the PCR-positive cases. Phylogenetically, the branching order of outbreak strains indicated a lack of reassortment between outbreak strains that implied a single outbreak source and a wild duck origin for the progenitor outbreak strain. The 2011 outbreak strains had no genetic relationships to the previous 2004 and 2006 HPAI H5N2 outbreak viruses. Molecular clock analysis based on the N2 neuraminidase genes estimated a recent common ancestor for the outbreak tentatively dated at September 2010. Deep sequencing results of 16 clinical PCR-positive samples yielded data in the range of 573 to 12,590 base pairs (bp), with an average of 4468 bp of total genomic sequence recovered per sample. This data was used to confirm the lack of reassortment and to assign samples into one of two epidemiologic groups to support epidemiologic tracing of the spread of the outbreak. One farm (no. 142), thought to have played a major epidemiologic role in the outbreak, was confirmed by deep sequencing to contain a mix of both epidemiologic virus groups.

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