Influenza A viruses (IAVs) are maintained in wild waterbirds and have the potential to infect a broad range of species, including wild mammals. The Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska supports a diverse suite of species, including waterfowl that are common hosts of IAVs. Mammals co-occur with geese and other migratory waterbirds during the summer breeding season, providing a plausible mechanism for interclass transmission of IAVs. To estimate IAV seroprevalence and identify the subtypes to which geese, loons, Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are potentially exposed, we used a blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (bELISA) and a hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay to screen for antibodies to IAVs in samples collected during spring and summer of 2012–16. Apparent IAV seroprevalence using the bELISA was 50.3% in geese (range by species: 46–52.8%), 9% in loons (range by species: 3–20%), and 0.4% in Arctic foxes. We found no evidence for exposure to IAVs in polar bears or caribou by either assay. Among geese, we estimated detection probability from replicate bELISA analyses to be 0.92 and also found good concordance (>85%) between results from bELISA and HI assays, which identified antibodies reactive to H1, H6, and H9 subtype IAVs. In contrast, the HI assay detected antibodies in only one of seven loon samples that were positive by bELISA; that sample had low titers to both H4 and H5 IAV subtypes. Our results provide evidence that a relatively high proportion of waterbirds breeding on the Arctic Coastal Plain are exposed to IAVs, although it is unknown whether such exposure occurs locally or on staging or wintering grounds. In contrast, seroprevalence of IAVs in concomitant Arctic mammals is apparently low.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2