Lack of virological and serological evidence for continued circulation of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 virus in wild birds in the Netherlands, 14 November 2014 to 31 January 2016
In 2014, H5N8 clade 184.108.40.206 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses of the A/Goose/Guangdong/1/1996 lineage emerged in poultry and wild birds in Asia, Europe and North America. Here, wild birds were extensively investigated in the Netherlands for HPAI H5N8 virus (real-time polymerase chain reaction targeting the matrix and H5 gene) and antibody detection (haemagglutination inhibition and virus neutralisation assays) before, during and after the first virus detection in Europe in late 2014. Between 21 February 2015 and 31 January 2016, 7,337 bird samples were tested for the virus. One HPAI H5N8 virus-infected Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope) sampled on 25 February 2015 was detected. Serological assays were performed on 1,443 samples, including 149 collected between 2007 and 2013, 945 between 14 November 2014 and 13 May 2015, and 349 between 1 September and 31 December 2015. Antibodies specific for HPAI H5 clade 220.127.116.11 were absent in wild bird sera obtained before 2014 and present in sera collected during and after the HPAI H5N8 emergence in Europe, with antibody incidence declining after the 2014/15 winter. Our results indicate that the HPAI H5N8 virus has not continued to circulate extensively in wild bird populations since the 2014/15 winter and that independent maintenance of the virus in these populations appears unlikely.