Epidemiology, pathology, and immunohistochemistry were investigated in layer hens affected with H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, which occurred for the first time in 79 yr in Japan. The farm, which had a total of 34,640 chickens, experienced up to 43.3% mortality before the chickens were depopulated. Clinically, the affected chickens exhibited mortality without apparent clinical signs. Histologically, hepatocytic necrosis; necrosis of ellipsoids and follicles with fibrin in the spleen; necrosis with glial nodules in the brain stem, cerebrum, and cerebellum; necrosis of acinar cells in the pancreas; and necrosis of lymphoid tissues in intestinal lamina propria were seen. Occasionally, mild bronchiolitis, degeneration of smooth muscle fibers in the cecum, and mild tubulonephrosis were noted. Immunohistochemically, influenza virus antigens were detected often in the liver and spleen, heart, intestine, gizzard, proventriculus, and oviduct. In addition, antigens were seen also in the brain, kidney, pancreas, and ovary, but seldom in the lung and trachea. Virus antigen was mainly detected in the capillary endothelium and parenchymal cells. This suggests that virus excretion from the respiratory tract was not as prevalent as that from the digestive tract in the present cases.
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