We collected samples from apparently healthy geese in the Playa Lakes Region (USA) during the winters of 2000–01 and 2001–02 to determine whether carriers of Pasteurella multocida, the bacterium that causes avian cholera, were present in wild populations. With the use of methods developed in laboratory challenge trials (Samuel et al., 2003a) and a serotype-specific polymerase chain reaction method for identification of P. multocida serotype 1, we found that a small proportion of 322 wild birds (<5%) were carriers of pathogenic P. multocida. On the basis of serology, an additional group of these birds (<10%) were survivors of recent avian cholera infection. Our results confirm the hypothesis that wild waterfowl are carriers of avian cholera and add support for the hypothesis that wild birds are a reservoir for this disease. In concert with other research, this work indicates that enzootic infection with avian cholera occurs in lesser snow goose (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) populations throughout their annual cycle. Although fewer Ross's geese (Chen rossii) were sampled, we also found these birds were carriers of P. multocida. Even in the absence of disease outbreaks, serologic evidence indicates that chronic disease transmission and recent infection are apparently occurring year-round in these highly gregarious birds and that a small portion of these populations are potential carriers with active infection.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1