Due to their probable role in the spread of Asian highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus, and in order to explore its implication in the low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus epidemiology, mute swans represent one particular wild bird species specifically targeted in the avian influenza (AI) surveillance elaborated in Belgium. A total of 640 individual mute swans have been sampled during a 4-yr AI surveillance program (2007–2010) to determine the AI seroprevalence and viroprevalence in this species; all were analyzed through age, temporal, and habitat (flowing and stagnant water) factors. Using a nucleoprotein (NP)-based ELISA, a global antibody prevalence of 35% has been found and was characterized by two peaks in the winter and the summer that might be indicative of a greater LPAI virus circulation in the autumn than in the spring. A significantly higher antibody prevalence was detected in adult swans (53.8%) as compared to juveniles (15.5%). In contrast, a low prevalence of infection (2.7%) was found, mainly in juvenile mute swans and only during the autumn migration period. Interestingly, an impact of water habitat was observed based on the comparison of the antibody prevalence and prevalence of infection from swan populations living on stagnant water vs. flowing water, suggesting that stagnant water provides a more-favorable environment for LPAI persistence and transmission.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1s