In February 2006, a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus was isolated from Common Pochards (Aythia ferina) in the Dombes region of France, an important migrating and wintering waterfowl area. Thereafter, HPAI H5N1 virus was isolated from 39 swab pools collected from dead waterfowl found in the Dombes, but only from three pooled samples collected outside of this area but located on the same migration flyway. A single turkey farm was infected in the Dombes. The epizootic lasted 2 mo and was restricted to the Dombes area. Virus-positive pools were detected in 20 of 1,200 ponds and infected Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) represented 82% of the virus-positive pools. Other infected species included Common Pochard (n=4), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea, n=1), Eurasian Buzzard (Buteo buteo, n=1), and Greylag Goose (Anser anser, n=1). Despite intensive monitoring during and after the outbreak, HPAI H5N1 virus was not isolated from healthy wild birds. Our results are consistent with an HPAI H5N1–virus introduction into the Dombes via migrating ducks. These birds could have been pushed west by a severe cold spell in central Europe where the virus had already been detected. The Mute Swan served as an excellent epidemiologic sentinel during this outbreak; swans appear to be highly sensitive to infection with these viruses and swan mortality was easy to detect. During the outbreak, the mortality rates for wild birds remained moderate and the virus affected a limited number of species.
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Vol. 44 • No. 4