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Limited detection of antibodies to clade 2.3.4.4 A/Goose/Guangdong/1/1996 lineage highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza virus in North American waterfowl

January 6, 2020

During 2014, highly pathogenic (HP) influenza A viruses (IAVs) of the A/Goose/Guangdong/1/1996 lineage (GsGD-HP-H5), originating from Asia, were detected in domestic poultry and wild birds in Canada and the US. These clade 2.3.4.4 GsGD-HP-H5 viruses included reassortants possessing North American lineage gene segments; were detected in wild birds in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways; and caused the largest HP IAV outbreak in poultry in US history. To determine if an antibody response indicative of previous infection with clade 2.3.4.4 GsGD-HP-H5 IAV could be detected in North American wild waterfowl sampled before, during, and after the 2014–15 outbreak, sera from 2,793 geese and 3,715 ducks were tested by blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and hemagglutination inhibition (HI) tests using both clade 2.3.4.4 GsGD-HPH5 and North American lineage low pathogenic (LP) H5 IAV antigens. We detected an antibody response meeting a comparative titer-based criteria (HI titer observed with 2.3.4.4 GsGD-HP-H5 antigens exceeded the titer observed for LP H5 antigen by two or more dilutions) for previous infection with clade 2.3.4.4 GsGD-HP-H5 IAV in only five birds, one Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) sampled during the outbreak and three Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and one Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) sampled during the post-outbreak period. These serologic results are consistent with the spatiotemporal extent of the outbreak in wild birds in North America during 2014 and 2015 and limited exposure of waterfowl to GsGD-HP-H5 IAV, particularly in the central and eastern US.