Among winter migratory waterfowl, Northern pintails (Anas acuta), in one of the largest flocks in Tohoku district, northeast Japan, were surveyed for influenza A viruses at five wintering sites in three prefectures, viz., Aomori, Akita, and Miyagi. A total of 38 influenza A viruses were isolated from 2066 fecal samples collected during November 2006 through March 2007. The overall isolation rate was 1.84%. Eleven different subtypes were isolated, including nine H5N2, seven H6N8, seven H10N1, four H4N6, three H6N1, three H11N9, and one each of H1N1, H6N2, H6N5, H10N9, H11N1. Only the H4N6 subtype was detected during two successive months, November and December, from Lake Ogawara of Aomori prefecture. One wintering site, Lake Izunuma of Miyagi prefecture, was negative for virus isolation throughout the study period. During the sampling period, the highest virus isolation rate was in December (4.90%) followed by November (2.18%), January (0.91%), and February (0.30%). Virus isolation was negative for samples collected in March 2007. These results suggest that influenza viruses are introduced by Northern pintail when they migrate into Japan, but the viruses are not maintained in the flocks, most likely because the birds are not breeding during the winter. We believe that this relatively large data set creates a strong foundation for future studies of avian influenza virus (AIV) prevalence, evolution, and ecology in wintering sites, along with the role of Northern pintails in the spread of AIV during their migration from northern Russia and Asia to Japan.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1