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Experimental challenge of a peridomestic avian species, European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), with novel Influenza A H7N9 virus from China

July 1, 2016

In 2013 a novel avian influenza H7N9 virus was isolated from several critically ill patients in China, and infection with this virus has since caused more than 200 human deaths. Live poultry markets are the likely locations of virus exposure to humans. Peridomestic avian species also may play important roles in the transmission and maintenance of H7N9 at live poultry markets. We experimentally challenged wild European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) with the novel H7N9 virus and measured virus excretion, clinical signs, and infectious dose. We found that European Starlings can be infected with this virus when inoculated with relatively high doses, and we predict that infected birds excrete sufficient amounts of virus to transmit to other birds, including domestic chickens. Infected European Starlings showed no clinical signs or mortality after infection with H7N9. This abundant peridomestic bird may be a source of the novel H7N9 virus in live poultry markets and may have roles in virus transmission to poultry and humans.

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