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Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases

Pathogen of the Month


January Pathogen of the Month:

Avian Influenza

What is it?

Avian influenza is the infection of birds with the Type A strain of the influenza virus. This virus is endemic worldwide, and can infect both domestic and wild avian species. Avian influenza A is very contagious among birds via nasal, salivary or fecal secretions. With particular respect to domestic birds, avian influenza is a concern for several reasons. The most significant is the potential economic impact on the food animal chain. A second reason is the potential for trade restrictions put into place out of concern for such economic impact. The third reason is the possibility that avian influenza A viruses could be transmitted to humans.

Where is avian influenzaChickens

Outbreaks of avian influenza have been reported worldwide. In December of 2017 alone, there were significant outbreaks in China, South Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia and Netherlands.

Its economic impact

The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that since 2003, global losses from avian influenza outbreaks have run into the billions of dollars.  That economic impact depends on the speed with which it is controlled, the extent of its spread, the role played by poultry in the GDP of the affected nation, and the structure of the poultry sector. A 2003 outbreak resulted in the deaths of 44 million birds in Vietnam and 29 million in Thailand, respectively 17.5 and 14.5 percent of those nations’ bird populations.

In the United States, a 2014-15 outbreak of avian influenza affected a reported 49.7 million birds from 211 commercial flocks and 21 backyard flocks, mostly but not entirely in Minnesota and Iowa. That outbreak caused an 11 percent reduction in the egg supply, increasing the cost of a dozen eggs from $1.36 in January to $2.06 in July.

How Infected Backyard Poultry Could Spread Bird Flu to People


Threat to humans

The CDC considers the risk of avian influenza to human health to be low at present. It recommends, however, that people should observe wild birds only from a distance, avoid contact with domestic birds that appear ill or that have died, and avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with fecal matter from wild or domestic birds.


What is CEEZAD doing about avian influenza?

Researchers supported by CEEZAD have developed live and inactivated Newcastle Disease virus-vectored vaccine candidates protecting chickens against the avian influenza virus. The vaccines were shown to be protective against novel H5NX strains for the recent outbreak in the U.S.


Sources: CEEZAD; Centers for Disease Control; Applied Commodity Price Analysis, Forecasting and Market Risk Management; Food and Agriculture Organization.