Influenza A viruses infect a wide range of hosts, including many species of birds. Avian influenza A virus (AIV) infection appears to be most common in Anseriformes (ducks, geese, and swans) and some Charadriiformes (shorebirds and gulls), but many other birds also serve as hosts of AIV. Here, we evaluated the role of seabirds as hosts for AIV. We tested 3,160 swab samples from 13 seabird species between May 2008 and December 2011 in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. We also tested 156 serum samples for evidence of previous infection of AIV in Common Murres (Uria aalge) and Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica). Avian influenza A virus was detected in breeding Common Murres and nonbreeding Thick-billed Murres (Uria lomvia), and Common Murres also had high antibody prevalence (44%). From these findings, combined with other studies showing AIV infection in murres, we conclude that murres are important for the ecology of AIV. For other species (Razorbill, Alca torda; Leach's Storm-Petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa; Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla; Atlantic Puffin) with good coverage (>100 samples) we did not detect AIV. However, serology indicates infection does occur in Atlantic Puffins, with 22% antibody prevalence found. The possibility of virus spread through dense breeding colonies and the long distance movements of these hosts make a more thorough evaluation of the role for seabirds as hosts of AIV important.
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Vol. 50 • No. 1