Analysis of geographic location and pathways for influenza A virus infection of commercial upland game bird and conventional poultry farms in the United States of America

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Background: Avian influenza (AI) is an infectious viral disease that affects several species and has zoonotic potential. Due to its associated health and economic repercussions, minimizing AI outbreaks is important. However, most control measures are generic and mostly target pathways important for the conventional poultry farms producing chickens, turkeys, and eggs and may not target other pathways that may be specific to the upland game bird sector. The goal of this study is to provide evidence to support the development of novel strategies for sector-specific AI control by comparing and contrasting practices and potential pathways for spread in upland game bird farms with those for conventional poultry farms in the United States. Farm practices and processes, seasonality of activities, geographic location and inter-farm distance were analyzed across the sectors. All the identified differences were framed and discussed in the context of their associated pathways for virus introduction into the farm and subsequent between-farm spread. Results: Differences stemming from production systems and seasonality, inter-farm distance and farm densities were evident and these could influence both fomite-mediated and local-area spread risks. Upland game bird farms operate under a single, independent owner rather than being contracted with or owned by a company with other farms as is the case with conventional poultry. The seasonal marketing of upland game birds, largely driven by hunting seasons, implies that movements are seasonal and customer-vendor dynamics vary between industry groups. Farm location analysis revealed that, on average, an upland game bird premises was 15.42 km away from the nearest neighboring premises with birds compared to 3.74 km for turkey premises. Compared to turkey premises, the average poultry farm density in a radius of 10 km of an upland game bird premises was less than a half, and turkey premises were 3.8 times (43.5% compared with 11.5%) more likely to fall within a control area during the 2015 Minnesota outbreak. Conclusions: We conclude that the existing differences in the seasonality of production, isolated geographic location and epidemiological seclusion of farms influence AI spread dynamics and therefore disease control measures should be informed by these and other factors to achieve success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number147
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 14 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) Veterinary Services (grant 16– 9794-2536CA) and was supported through a USDA-APHIS Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health Cooperative Agreement to Support National Preparedness Planning for Animal Health Emergencies (cooperative agreement 12–9208–0218CA). They played no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


  • Biosecurity
  • Epidemiological contacts
  • Infection pathways
  • Influenza a virus
  • Upland game birds

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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