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Epidemiology of avian influenza viruses

01 June 2019, at 9:00am

An editorial in Frontiers in Veterinary Science explores the zoonotic potential of avian influenza and how research efforts can prevent the spread of high-pathogenic avian influenza.

Researchers Mathilde Paul, Timothée Vergne, Paolo Mulatti, Thanawat Tiensin and Irene Iglesias have authored an editorial in Frontiers in Veterinary Science that examines recent research efforts in avian influenza outbreaks.

Avian influenza (AI) is a highly salient topic for veterinary researchers – AI has a huge zoonotic potential and can be catastrophic for commercial and domestic poultry operations. The current approach to managing outbreaks of AI, especially high-pathogenic AI (HPAI), is to vaccinate and pre-emptively cull birds in the infection zone. This practice is obviously devastating to commercial poultry operations and may create an adversarial relationship between producers and veterinarians. Thus, additional researching novel methods for managing AI that don’t result in culling large flocks is necessary.

Paul et al. identify the role that geography plays in the outbreaks of HPAI. When epidemiologically mapping outbreaks, instances appear to be concentrated in “hot spots” in East Asia. By examining these geographic hot spots, researchers would be better able to identify risk patterns associated with outbreaks and create better control measures in AI endemic areas (like Indonesia).

Other AI control strategies need further research as well. Waterfowl currently act as a natural reservoir for HPAI and low-pathogenic AI, and outbreaks periodically spill over into commercial and domestic poultry flocks. Since influenza has multiple transmission routes, researchers need to identify and analyse these transmission pathways in order to prevent and control the disease. Further research is also needed into effective biosecurity and waste disposal.

In general, the authors call for greater investment in veterinary epidemiology. They also stress the need for more information on AI and official management procedures in order to ensure emergency responses are effective and timely. They assert that a proper understanding of the chain governance structure is vital to improve the effective control measures and design fit-for-purpose interventions.

You can read the full piece here.