Seroprevalence of avian influenza in Baltic common eiders (Somateria mollissima) and pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)
Blood plasma was collected during 2016-2018 from healthy incubating eiders (Somateria molissima, n = 183) in three Danish colonies, and healthy migrating pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus, n = 427) at their spring roost in Central Norway (Svalbard breeding population) and their novel flyway through the Finnish Baltic Sea (Russian breeding population). These species and flyways altogether represent terrestrial, brackish and marine ecosystems spanning from the Western to the Eastern and Northern part of the Baltic Sea. Plasma of these species was analysed for seroprevalence of specific avian influenza A (AI) antibodies to obtain information on circulating AI serotypes and exposure. Overall, antibody prevalence was 55% for the eiders and 47% for the pink-footed geese. Of AI-antibody seropositive birds, 12% (22/183) of the eiders and 3% (12/427) of the pink-footed geese had been exposed to AI of the potentially zoonotic serotypes H5 and/or H7 virus. AI seropositive samples selected at random (n = 33) showed a low frequency of serotypes H1, H6 and H9. Future projects should aim at sampling and isolating AI virus to characterize dominant serotypes and virus strains (PCR). This will increase our understanding of how AI exposure may affect health, breeding and population viability of Baltic common eiders and pink-footed geese as well as the potential spill-over to humans (zoonotic potential).