Why environmental surveillance for avian influenza is vital

Wastewater-based epidemiology or pathogen surveillance has become an integral component of environmental surveillance providing near real-time information on health and community exposure to pathogens. While environmental surveillance is not a new concept and has been used widely for monitoring several pathogens, it offers an excellent tool.

Birds infected with avian influenza virus shed large quantities of virus in their faeces, saliva and nasal secretions for about a week. Wild aquatic birds in the Orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes are the primordial reservoir for the virus. The transmission of the virus within these wild bird populations is dependent on faecal/oral transmission via contaminated water.

Avian influenza viruses have been isolated from unconcentrated water in lakes in the U.S., Canada and China. Recurrent infections of animal hosts with the virus have posed a persistent threat. Having a large-scale influenza A virus surveillance network in place across multiple sites is crucial for improving our understanding on the diversity, seasonal and geographical distributions of the virus in environments associated with poultry and wild birds. The surveillance needs to target the locations where spillover is most likely.

Read the full article in the Hindu here