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Characterizing wild bird contact and seropositivity to highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus in Alaskan residents.

Abstract

We enrolled rural subsistence bird hunters and their families, urban sport hunters, wildlife biologists, and a comparison group without bird contact. We interviewed participants regarding their exposures to wild birds and collected blood to perform serologic testing for antibodies against a clade 2.2 HPAI H5N1 virus strain.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (HPAI) H5N1 viruses have infected poultry and wild birds on three continents with more than 600 reported human cases (59% mortality) since 2003. Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoir for avian influenza A viruses, and migratory birds have been documented with HPAI H5N1 virus infection. Since 2005, clade 2.2 HPAI H5N1 viruses have spread from Asia to many countries.

We characterized wild bird contact among Alaskans and behaviors that may influence risk of infection with avian influenza A viruses. Such knowledge can inform surveillance and risk communication surrounding HPAI H5N1 and other influenza viruses in a population with exposure to wild birds at a crossroads of intercontinental migratory flyways.

We conducted a cross-sectional seroepidemiological survey in Anchorage and western Alaska to identify possible behaviors associated with migratory bird exposure and measure seropositivity to HPAI H5N1.

Hunters and wildlife biologists reported exposures to wild migratory birds that may confer risk of infection with avian influenza A viruses, although none of the 916 participants had evidence of seropositivity to HPAI H5N1.

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