Wetenschappelijk artikelAssociation of wild bird densities around poultry farms with the risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus subtype H5N8 outbreaks in the Netherlands, 2016

Highly pathogenic (HP) avian influenza viruses (AIV) can spread globally through migratory birds and cause massive outbreaks in commercial poultry. AIV outbreaks have been associated with proximity to waterbodies, presence of waterfowl or wild bird cases near poultry farms. In this study, we compared densities of selected HPAI high-risk wild bird species around 7 locations (H farms) infected with HPAIV H5N8 in the Netherlands in 2016–2017 to densities around 21 non-infected reference farms. Nine reference farms were in low-lying water-rich areas (R-W) and 12 in higher non-water-rich areas (R-NW). Average monthly numbers/km2 of Eurasian wigeons, tufted ducks, Anatidae (ducks, geese and swans) and Laridae (gulls) were calculated between September and April in rings of 0–1, 1–3, 3–6 and 6–10 km around the farms. Linear mixed model analyses showed generally higher bird densities for H and R-W compared to R-NW farms between October and March. This was most striking for Eurasian wigeons, with in peak month December 105 (95% CI:17–642) and 40 (7–214) times higher densities around H and R-W farms, respectively, compared to R-NW farms. Increased densities around H farms for Eurasian wigeons and Anatidae were more pronounced for distances up to 10 km compared to 0–1 km that mostly consists of the farm yard, which is an unattractive habitat for waterfowl. This distance effect was not observed in gulls, nor in tufted ducks that live on large open waterbodies which are unlikely to be within 0–1 km of farms. This study provides insights into spatio-temporal density dynamics of HPAI high-risk birds around farms and their associations with poultry outbreaks. The outcomes indicate that knowledge of environmental and ecological drivers for wild bird presence and abundance may facilitate identification of priority areas for surveillance and biosecurity measures and decisions on establishments of poultry farms to reduce risk of HPAI outbreaks.

Transboundary and Emerging Diseases