The H5N1 type A influenza viruses that emerged in Hong Kong in 1997 are a unique lineage of type A influenza viruses with the capacity to transmit directly from chickens to humans and produce significant disease and mortality in both of these hosts. The objective of this study was to ascertain the susceptibility of emus (Dramaius novaehollandiae), domestic geese (Anser anser domesticus), domestic ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), and pigeons (Columba livia) to intranasal (i.n.) inoculation with the A/chicken/Hong Kong/220/97 (H5N1) highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. No mortality occurred within 10 days postinoculation (DPI) in the four species investigated, and clinical disease, evident as neurologic dysfunction, was observed exclusively in emus and geese. Grossly, pancreatic mottling and splenomegaly were identified in these two species. In addition, the geese had cerebral malacia and thymic and bursal atrophy. Histologically, both the emus and geese developed pancreatitis, meningoencephalitis, and mild myocarditis. Influenza viral antigen was demonstrated in areas with histologic lesions up to 10 DPI in the geese. Virus was reisolated from oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs and from the lung, brain, and kidney of the emus and geese. Moderate splenomegaly was observed grossly in the ducks. Viral infection of the ducks was pneumotropic, as evidenced by mild inflammatory lesions in the respiratory tract and virus reisolation from oropharyngeal swabs and from a lung. Pigeons were resistant to HK/220 infection, lacking gross and histologic lesions, viral antigen, and reisolation of virus. These results imply that emus and geese are susceptible to i.n. inoculation with the HK/220 virus, whereas ducks and pigeons are more resistant. These latter two species probably played a minimal epidemiologic role in the perpetuation of the H5N1 Hong Kong–origin influenza viruses.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1