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Emperor geese (Anser canagicus) are exposed to a diversity of influenza A viruses, are infected during the non-breeding period and contribute to intercontinental viral dispersal

May 11, 2019

Emperor geese (Anser canagicus) are endemic to coastal areas within Beringia and have previously been found to have antibodies to or to be infected with influenza A viruses (IAVs) in Alaska. In this study, we use virological, serological and tracking data to further elucidate the role of emperor geese in the ecology of IAVs in Beringia during the non‐breeding period. Specifically, we assess evidence for: (a) active IAV infection during spring staging, autumn staging and wintering periods; (b) infection with novel Eurasian‐origin or interhemispheric reassortant viruses; (c) contemporary movement of geese between East Asia and North America; (d) previous exposure to viruses of 14 haemagglutinin subtypes, including Eurasian lineage highly pathogenic (HP) H5 IAVs; and (e) subtype‐specific antibody seroconversion and seroreversion. Emperor geese were found to shed IAVs, including interhemispheric reassortant viruses, throughout the non‐breeding period; migrate between Alaska and the Russian Far East prior to and following remigial moult; have antibodies reactive to a diversity of IAVs including, in a few instances, Eurasian lineage HP H5 IAVs; and exhibit relatively broad and stable patterns of population immunity among breeding females. Results of this study suggest that emperor geese may play an important role in the maintenance and dispersal of IAVs within Beringia during the non‐breeding period and provide information that may be used to further optimize surveillance activities focused on the early detection of Eurasian‐origin IAVs in North America.