Avian influenza (H5N1) outbreaks in Europe during the winter of 2005-2006 occurred at the edge of cold weather fronts, according to researchers from Princeton University and the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Their results, published April 8 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens, show that these outbreaks were driven by aggregated movements of wild waterbirds away from areas of frozen water.
The researchers found that most H5N1 outbreaks occurred at sites where maximum temperatures were between 0°C and 2°C. These usually occurred on the edge of cold fronts where bodies of freshwater remained unfrozen. Many wild waterbirds need unfrozen bodies of freshwater in winter to feed; in order to minimize the distance flown, they also try to stay as close as possible to the northern breeding grounds to which they will migrate during spring. The resulting congregation of different species of waterbirds along the freezing front likely created ideal conditions for the transmission of the H5N1 virus within and between wild bird species; in 2006, it caused many detectable outbreaks.
The genetic tree of the H5N1 virus that caused outbreaks in Europe is well known. However, the conditions favoring the virus' spread were previously unclear. Understanding these ecological links may help to predict and control future outbreaks.
Forecasts predicting near-freezing temperatures in Europe may act as an indication for concern, the authors say. When these conditions are forecasted, the authors suggest that targeted surveillance in areas along the extreme edge of cold fronts may help in the early detection of the virus.
PLEASE MENTION THE OPEN-ACCESS JOURNAL PLoS PATHOGENS (www.plospathogens.org) AS THE SOURCE FOR THIS ARTICLE AND PROVIDE A LINK TO THE FREELY AVAILABLE TEXT. THANK YOU.
PLoS Pathogens is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal published weekly by the Public Library of Science (PLoS).
****EMBARGO in place until: Thursday, April 8, 2010, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern Time****
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The present study was supported in part by European Commission grant no. 044490 ''New-FluBird''. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
COMPETING INTERESTS: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000854 (link will go live upon embargo lift)
CITATION: Reperant LA, Fučkar NS, Osterhaus ADME, Dobson AP, Kuiken T (2010) Spatial and Temporal Association of Outbreaks of H5N1 Influenza Virus Infection in Wild Birds with the 0uC Isotherm. PLoS Pathog 6(4): e1000854. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000854
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
tel: 609 751 3610
This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Pathogens. The release is provided by the article authors. Any opinions expressed in these releases or articles are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.
About PLoS Pathogens
PLoS Pathogens (www.plospathogens.org) publishes outstanding original articles that significantly advance the understanding of pathogens and how they interact with their host organisms. All works published in PLoS Pathogens are open access. Everything is immediately available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.
About the Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.