Airborne transmission may have played a role in the spread of 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks in the United States

Date
2019-08-13
Authors
Zhao, Yang
Richardson, Brad
Takle, Eugene
Chai, Lilong
Schmitt, David
Takle, Eugene
Xin, Hongwei
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Animal Science
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Agronomy
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Animal ScienceAgronomyGeological and Atmospheric SciencesAgricultural and Biosystems EngineeringEgg Industry Center
Abstract

The unprecedented 2015 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 in the U.S. devastated its poultry industry and resulted in over $3 billion economic impacts. Today HPAI continues eroding poultry operations and disrupting animal protein supply chains around the world. Anecdotal evidence in 2015 suggested that in some cases the AI virus was aerially introduced into poultry houses, as abnormal bird mortality started near air inlets of the infected houses. This study modeled air movement trajectories and virus concentrations that were used to assess the probability or risk of airborne transmission for the 77 HPAI cases in Iowa. The results show that majority of the positive cases in Iowa might have received airborne virus, carried by fine particulate matter, from infected farms within the state (i.e., intrastate) and infected farms from the neighboring states (i.e., interstate). The modeled airborne virus concentrations at the Iowa recipient sites never exceeded the minimal infective doses for poultry; however, the continuous exposure might have increased airborne infection risks. In the worst-case scenario (i.e., maximum virus shedding rate, highest emission rate, and longest half-life), 33 Iowa cases had > 10% (three cases > 50%) infection probability, indicating a medium to high risk of airborne transmission for these cases. Probability of airborne HPAI infection could be affected by farm type, flock size, and distance to previously infected farms; and more importantly, it can be markedly reduced by swift depopulation and inlet air filtration. The research results provide insights into the risk of airborne transmission of HPAI virus via fine dust particles and the importance of preventative and containment strategies such as air filtration and quick depopulation of infected flocks.

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This article is published as Zhao, Yang, Brad Richardson, Eugene Takle, Lilong Chai, David Schmitt, and Hongwei Xin. "Airborne transmission may have played a role in the spread of 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks in the United States." Scientific Reports 9 (2019): 11755. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47788-z. Posted with permission.

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