Entry of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus into Europe through migratory wild birds: a qualitative release assessment at the species level

P. Gale, A. Goddard, A.C. Breed, R.M. Irvine, L. Kelly, E.L. Snary

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To estimate qualitatively the probabilities of release (or entry) of Eurasian lineage H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus into Great Britain (GB), the Netherlands and Italy through selected higher risk species of migratory water bird. The probabilities of one or more release events of H5N1 HPAI per year (Prelease) were estimated qualitatively for 15 avian species, including swans, geese, ducks and gulls, by assessing the prevalence of H5N1 HPAI in different regions of the world (weighted to 2009) and estimates of the total numbers of birds migrating from each of those regions. The release
assessment accommodated the migration times for each species in relation to the probabilities of their surviving infection and shedding virus on arrival. Although the predicted probabilities of release of H5N1 per individual bird per year were low, very low or negligible, Prelease was high for a few species reflecting the high numbers of birds migrating from some regions. Values of Prelease were generally higher for the Netherlands than for GB, while ducks and gulls from Africa presented higher probabilities to Italy compared to the Netherlands and GB. Bird species with high values of Prelease in GB, the Netherlands and Italy generally originate from within Europe based on data for global prevalence of H5N1 between 2003 and 2009 weighted to 2009. Potential longdistance transfer of H5N1 HPAI from North Asia and Eurasia to GB, the
Netherlands and Italy is limited to a few species and does not occur from South-East Asia, an area where H5N1 is endemic. The approach accommodates biogeographical
conditions and variability in the estimated worldwide prevalence of the virus. The outputs of this release assessment can be used to inform surveillance activities through focusing on certain species and migratory pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1405-1417
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number6
Early online date26 Mar 2014
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2014


  • H5N1
  • highly pathogenic avain influenza virus
  • migratory birds
  • risk assessment
  • europe
  • qualitative release assessment
  • species level

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