A national study of US bird banders for evidence of avian influenza virus infections.
BACKGROUND: Previously we have found that Midwestern US wildlife biologists, poultry farmers, veterinarians, and duck hunters have had evidence of avian influenza virus infections (AIVs). OBJECTIVES: We sought to evaluate a national sample of US bird banders for previous evidence of AIV infection. STUDY DESIGN: Controlled, cross-sectional serological survey. RESULTS: In 2009 and 2010 we enrolled 157 registered bird banders from 40 US states and compared their enrollment data and serological results with 78 adult age-group matched controls from Iowa. On average, the bird banders had 15 years of wild bird exposure, banded 20 days per year, worked chiefly in 1 of the 4 North American flyways, and banded 300 individual birds of 5 different species per season. While handling birds, only 15% of banders reported wearing gloves. Three bird banders and 1 control had evidence of previous infection (1 AIV each) with A/BWTE/Ohio/07/495762-6(H7N3), A/Ty/MN/38391-6/95(H9N2) or A/CK/NJ/7290-2/95(H11N3) by microneutralization assay. There was no evidence of previous infection with a representative sample of H4, H5, H6, H8, or H10 AIVs. Participants were followed for influenza-like-illness for a median of 7 months and 4 (3 bird banders) submitted self-collected eye, nasal, and throat influenza-like-illness swab specimens, 1 of which collected in November of 2009, yielded a pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus. CONCLUSION: Despite reports of conjunctivitis and upper respiratory symptoms while bird banding, we found sparse evidence that US bird banders had infections with AIVs.
Gray, GC; Ferguson, DD; Lowther, PE; Heil, GL; Friary, JA
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