The ecology of avian influenza (AI) viruses in wild aquatic birds of Asia is poorly understood, especially for the H5N1 high pathogenicity AI (HPAI) viruses. From March 2006 through November 2008, 20 AI viruses were isolated in the Crimea region of Ukraine with an overall frequency of virus recovery of 3.3%. All the viruses were isolated from three species of dabbling ducks: mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), wigeon (Anas penelope), and garganey (Anas querquedula), making the frequency of virus recovery for dabbling ducks 6.3%. The viruses were predominantly isolated during the fall sampling period. All viruses were genetically and antigenically characterized. No H5N1 HPAI viruses were isolated, but other HA and NA subtypes were identified including H3N1 (2), H3N6 (3), H3N8 (4), H4N6 (6), H5N2 (3), H7N8 (1), and H10N6 (1) subtypes. All isolates were of low pathogenicity, as determined by the intravenous pathogenicity index of 0.00. For H5N2 and H7N8 isolates, the HA gene was sequenced and the phylogenetic analysis revealed possible ecologic connections of the Crimea region with AI viruses from Siberia and Europe. No influenza A isolates were recovered from other Anseriformes (diving ducks [two species of pochards] and graylag geese), Columbiformes (collared doves), Gruiformes (coot), and Galliformes (gray partridges).
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Vol. 54 • No. 3