Avian cholera, caused by Pasteurella multocida, affects waterbirds across North America and occurs worldwide among various avian species. Once an epizootic begins, contamination of the wetland environment likely facilitates the transmission of P. multocida to susceptible birds. To evaluate the ability of P. multocida serotype-1, the most common serotype associated with avian cholera in waterfowl in western and central North America, to persist in wetlands and to identify environmental factors associated with its persistence, we collected water and sediment samples from 23 wetlands during winters and springs of 1996–99. These samples were collected during avian cholera outbreaks and for up to 13 wk following initial sampling. We recovered P. multocida from six wetlands that were sampled following the initial outbreaks, but no P. multocida was isolated later than 7 wk after the initial outbreak sampling. We found no significant relationship between the probability of recovery of P. multocida during resampling and the abundance of the bacterium recovered during initial sampling, the substrate from which isolates were collected, isolate virulence, or water quality conditions previously suggested to be related to the abundance or survival of P. multocida. Our results indicate that wetlands are unlikely to serve as a long-term reservoir for P. multocida because the bacterium does not persist in wetlands for long time periods following avian cholera outbreaks.
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Vol. 42 • No. 1