U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



PLoS One 7(3) (March 2012) e32729


Outbreaks of avian influenza in North American poultry have been linked to wild waterfowl. A first step towards understanding where and when avian influenza viruses might emerge from North American waterfowl is to identify environmental and demographic determinants of infection in their populations. Laboratory studies indicate water temperature as one determinant of environmental viral persistence and we explored this hypothesis at the landscape scale. We also hypothesized that the interval apparent prevalence in ducks within a local watershed during the overwintering season would influence infection probabilities during the following breeding season within the same local watershed. Using avian influenza virus surveillance data collected from 19,965 wild waterfowl across the contiguous United States between October 2006 and September 2009 We fit Logistic regression models relating the infection status of individual birds sampled on their breeding grounds to demographic characteristics, temperature, and interval apparent prevalence during the preceding overwintering season at the local watershed scale. We found strong support for sex, age, and species differences in the probability an individual duck tested positive for avian influenza virus. In addition, we found that for every seven days the local minimum temperature fell below zero, the chance an individual would test positive for avian influenza virus increased by 5.9 percent. We also found a twelve percent increase in the chance an individual would test positive during the breeding season for every ten percent increase in the interval apparent prevalence during the prior overwintering season. These results suggest that viral deposition in water and sub-freezing temperatures during the overwintering season may act as determinants of individual level infection risk during the subsequent breeding season. Our findings have implications for future surveillance activities in waterfowl and domestic poultry populations. Further study is needed to identify how these drivers might interact with other host-specific infection determinants, such as species phylogeny, immunological status, and behavioral characteristics.

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