Objective: To identify and gain an understanding of the influenza viruses circulating in wild birds in Australia. Design: A total of 16,303 swabs and 3782 blood samples were collected and analysed for avian influenza (AI) viruses from 16,420 wild birds in Australia between July 2005 and June 2007. Anseriformes and Charadriiformes were primarily targeted. Procedures: Cloacal, oropharyngeal and faecal (environmental) swabs were tested using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the AI type A matrix gene. Positive samples underwent virus culture and subtyping. Serum samples were analysed using a blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for influenza A virus nucleoprotein. Results: No highly pathogenic AI viruses were identified. However, 164 PCR tests were positive for the AI type A matrix gene, 46 of which were identified to subtype. A total of five viruses were isolated, three of which had a corresponding positive PCR and subtype identification (H3N8, H4N6, H7N6). Low pathogenic AI H5 and/or H7 was present in wild birds in New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Antibodies to influenza A were also detected in 15.0% of the birds sampled. Conclusions: Although low pathogenic AI virus subtypes are currently circulating in Australia, their prevalence is low (1.0% positive PCR). Surveillance activities for AI in wild birds should be continued to provide further epidemiological information about circulating viruses and to identify any changes in subtype prevalence.
Australian Veterinary Journal Vol. 87, Issue 7, p. 266-272