During the spring of 2002, a low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) A (H7N2) virus caused a major outbreak among commercial poultry in Virginia and adjacent states. The virus primarily affected turkey flocks, causing respiratory distress and decreased egg production. Experimentally, turkeys were more susceptible than chickens to H7N2 virus infection, with 50% bird infectious dose titers equal to 100.8 and 102.8–3.2, respectively. Comparison of virus shedding from the cloaca and oropharynx demonstrated that recent H7N2 virus isolates were readily isolated from the upper respiratory tract but rarely from the gastrointestinal tract. The outbreak of H7N2 virus raised concerns regarding the availability of vaccines that could be used for the prevention and control of this virus in poultry. We sought to determine if an existing commercial avian influenza (AI) vaccine prepared from a 1997 seed stock virus could provide protection against a 2002 LPAI H7N2 virus isolated from a turkey (A/turkey/Virginia/158512/02 [TV/02]) in Virginia that was from the same lineage as the vaccine virus. The inactivated AI vaccine, prepared from A/chicken/Pennsylvania/21342/97 (CP/97) virus, significantly reduced viral shedding from vaccinated turkeys in comparison with sham controls but did not prevent infection. The protective effect of vaccination correlated with the level of virus-specific antibody because a second dose of vaccine increased antiviral serum immunoglobulin G and hemagglutination inhibition (HI) reactivity titers in two different turkey age groups. Serum from CP/97-vaccinated turkeys reacted equally well to CP/97 and TV/02 antigens by HI and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. These results demonstrate the potential benefit of using an antigenically related 1997 H7N2 virus as a vaccine candidate for protection in poultry against a H7N2 virus isolate from 2002.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1