Traditionally, the epidemiology of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) in wild birds has been defined by detection of virus or viral RNA through virus isolation or reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. Our goals were to estimate AIV antibody prevalence in Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and measure effects of age and location on these estimates. We collected 3,205 samples from nine states during June and July 2008 and 2009: Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia. Serum samples were tested for AIV antibodies with the use of a commercial blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Overall, 483 (15%) Canada geese had detectable antibodies to AIV. Significantly higher prevalences were detected in geese collected from northeastern and upper midwestern states compared with southeastern states. This trend is consistent with results from virus isolation studies reporting AIV prevalence in North American dabbling ducks. Within Pennsylvania, significantly higher antibody prevalences were detected in goose flocks sampled in urban locations compared to flocks sampled in rural areas. Antibody prevalence was significantly higher in after-hatch-year geese compared to hatch-year geese. No significant differences in prevalence were detected from 10 locations sampled during both years. Results indicate that Canada geese are frequently exposed to AIVs and, with resident populations, may potentially be useful as sentinels to confirm regional AIV transmission within wild bird populations.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4