Between 2003 and 2008, more than 600 white stork (Ciconia ciconia) nestlings in the German federal state of Brandenburg were ringed and examined for influenza A viruses. With the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) of subtype H5N1 among wild birds in Germany in spring 2006, dead wild birds, including 88 white storks, were tested for infection with HPAIV. Furthermore, fresh fecal samples were examined by RT-PCR to monitor the occurrence of HPAIV in adult storks. While the monitoring of nestlings and adult white storks failed to yield evidence of influenza A virus infections in these birds, two storks found dead in April 2006 in the same location tested positive for HPAIV H5N1. Sequence analysis revealed that the virus isolated from one of the storks belonged to clade 2.2, which was commonly found in wild birds in the north of Germany and other European countries during the epidemic in 2006. Despite these two cases, white storks seemed to serve as neither a vector nor as a reservoir for HPAIV in Germany. The risk of white storks transmitting HPAIV to domestic poultry and humans is low.
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Vol. 53 • No. 4