Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are numerous, highly visible, and widely distributed in both migratory and resident populations in North America; as a member of the order Anseriformes, they are often suggested as a potential reservoir and source for avian influenza (AI) viruses. To further examine the role of Canada Geese in the ecology of AI, we re-evaluated existing literature related to AI virus in this species and tested breeding populations of Canada Geese from three states (Georgia, West Virginia, and Minnesota, USA) by virus isolation and serology. The ability of AI virus to persist in goose feces under experimental conditions also was evaluated as an additional measure of the potential for this species to serve as an AI virus reservoir. Virus was not isolated from 1,668 cloacal swabs and type-specific antibody prevalence was low (4/335, 1.2%). Finally, under experimental conditions, AI virus persistence in goose feces and in water contaminated with goose feces was limited as compared to published estimates from duck feces and water. Our results are consistent with historic reports of a low prevalence of AI virus infection in this species, and we suggest that Canada Geese play a minor, if any, role as a reservoir for low pathogenic AI viruses that naturally circulate in wild bird populations.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3