Avian influenza viruses pose a threat to wildlife and livestock health. The emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds and poultry in North America in late 2021 was the first such outbreak since 2015 and the largest outbreak in North America to date. Despite its prominence and economic impacts, we know relatively little about how HPAI spreads in wild bird populations. In January 2022, we captured 43 mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in Tennessee, USA, 11 of which were actively infected with HPAI. These were the first confirmed detections of HPAI H5N1 clade 18.104.22.168b in the Mississippi Flyway. We compared movement patterns of infected and uninfected birds and found no clear differences; infected birds moved just as much during winter, migrated slightly earlier, and migrated similar distances as uninfected birds. Infected mallards also contacted and shared space with uninfected birds while on their wintering grounds, suggesting ongoing transmission of the virus. We found no differences in body condition or survival rates between infected and uninfected birds. Together, these results show that HPAI H5N1 clade 22.214.171.124b infection was unrelated to body condition or movement behavior in mallards infected at this location during winter; if these results are confirmed in other seasons and as HPAI H5N1 continues to evolve, they suggest that these birds could contribute to the maintenance and dispersal of HPAI in North America. Further research on more species across larger geographic areas and multiple seasons would help clarify potential impacts of HPAI on waterfowl and how this emerging disease spreads at continental scales, across species, and potentially between wildlife and domestic animals.
|Title||North American wintering mallards infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza show few signs of altered local or migratory movements|
|Authors||Claire S. Teitelbaum, Nicholas Masto, Jeffery D. Sullivan, Allison Keever, Rebecca L. Poulson, Deborah Carter, Abigail Blake-Bradshaw, Corey Highway, Jamie Feddersen, Heath M. Hagy, Richard W. Gerhold, Bradley S. Cohen, Diann Prosser|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Scientific Reports|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Eastern Ecological Science Center|