The California poultry industry experienced an outbreak of H6N2 avian influenza beginning in February 2000. The initial infections were detected in three commercial egg-laying flocks and a single noncommercial backyard flock but later spread to new premises. The vaccination of pullet flocks with a commercially prepared, killed autogenous vaccine prior to their placements on farms with infected or previously infected flocks was used as a part of the eradication programs for some multiage, commercial egg production farms. The purpose of this study was to follow three vaccinated flocks on two commercial farms to track the immune responses to vaccination. The antibody-mediated responses of the three flocks followed in this study were markedly different. One flock achieved 100% seroconversion at 12.5 wk of age, but by 32 wk of age, all of the hens were seronegative by agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID). In contrast, at 32 wk of age, flocks from the other farm (flocks 2A and 2B) were 95% and 72% seropositive by AGID, respectively. Of the differences that were identified between the vaccination protocols on the two farms, the distinction that could explain the level of disparity between responses is the delivery of the second dose of vaccine with a bacterin on the first farm, which may have interfered with the persistence of immunity in this flock. Hens from flocks 2A and 2B were experimentally challenged at 25 wk of age with H6N2 avian influenza virus. Hens from flock 2A did not transmit virus to naïve contact-exposed hens, but hens from flock 2B did. At 34 wk of age, hens from flock 2A were again challenged and naive contact-exposed hens were infected in this second trial. These challenge experiments served to demonstrate that despite detectable antibody responses in flocks 2A and 2B, the birds were protected from infection for less than 21 wk after the second vaccination.
- Avian influenza