Although wild waterfowl are the main reservoir for low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIv), the environment plays a critical role for the circulation and persistence of AIv. LPAIv may persist for extended periods in cold environments, suggesting that waterfowl breeding areas in the northern hemisphere may be an important reservoir for AIv in contrast to the warmer southern wintering areas. We evaluated whether southern wetlands, with relatively small populations (thousands) of resident waterfowl, maintain AIv in the summer, prior to the arrival of millions of migratory birds. We collected water and fecal samples at ten wetlands in two regions (Yolo Bypass and Sacramento Valley) of the California Central Valley during three bi-weekly intervals beginning in late July, 2010. We detected AIv in 29/367 fecal samples (7.9%) and 12/597 water samples (2.0%) by matrix real time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR). We isolated two H3N8, two H2N3, and one H4N8 among rRT-PCR positive fecal samples but no live virus from water samples. Detection of AIv RNA in fecal samples was higher from wetlands in the Sacramento Valley (11.9%) than in the Yolo Bypass (0.0%), but no difference was found for water samples (2.7 vs. 1.7%, respectively). Our study showed that low densities of hosts and unfavorable environmental conditions did not prevent LPAIv circulation during summer in California wetlands. Our findings justify further investigations to understand AIv dynamics in resident waterfowl populations, compare AIv subtypes between migratory and resident waterfowl, and assess the importance of local AIv as a source of infection for migratory birds.
Additional Publication Details
Presence of avian influenza viruses in waterfowl and wetlands during summer 2010 in California: Are resident birds a potential reservoir?