* Rapidly expanding range of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses

The movement of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) virus across Eurasia and into North America and the virus’ propensity to reassort with co-circulating low pathogenicity viruses raise concerns among poultry producers, wildlife biologists, aviculturists, and public health personnel worldwide. Surveillance, modeling, and experimental research will provide the knowledge required for intelligent policy and management decisions.

The recent introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N8 virus into Europe and North America poses major risks to poultry industries, zoologic collections, and wildlife populations; thus, this introduction warrants continued and heightened vigilance. First discovered in early 2014 in poultry and wild birds in South Korea, HPAI H5N8 virus apparently arose in China from reassortment events between HPAI subtype H5N1 virus and several low pathogenicity viruses (LPAIVs). The H5N8 virus was subsequently detected in waterfowl in Russia in September 2014, and since then, H5N8 virus and reassortants have been detected in poultry and wild birds in Europe (Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Sweden), Taiwan, Japan, Canada (British Columbia), and the western and central United States (Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, and Montana).

Wild waterfowl are a primary natural host for LPAIVs, and infection rates in these populations peak at autumn migratory staging locations, where large numbers of immunologically naive juvenile birds congregate. The HPAI H5N8 virus has apparently adapted to wild waterfowl hosts: few or no clinical signs or adverse effects are apparent in these hosts when infected with the virus. Thus, it seems probable that the virus was disseminated out of Russia into Europe, East Asia, and North America by migrating waterfowl during autumn 2014.  Emerging Infectious Diseases Original web page at Emerging Infectious Diseases