In recent years, wild birds have introduced multiple highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus infections in Romanian poultry. In 2005 HPAI infections were widespread among domestic poultry and anecdotal reports suggested domestic pigs may also have been exposed. We sought to examine evidence for zoonotic influenza infections among Romanian agriculture workers. Between 2009 and 2010, 363 adult participants were enrolled in a cross-sectional, seroepidemiological study. Confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) swine workers in Tulcea and small, traditional backyard farmers in Cluj-Napoca were enrolled, as well as a non-animal exposed control group from Cluj-Napoca. Enrollment sera were examined for serological evidence of previous infection with 9 avian and 3 human influenza virus strains. Serologic assays showed no evidence of previous infection with 7 low pathogenic avian influenza viruses or with HPAI H5N1. However, 33 participants (9.1%) had elevated microneutralization antibody titers against avian-like A/Hong Kong/1073/1999(H9N2), 5 with titers ≥ 1:80 whom all reported exposure to poultry. Moderate poultry exposure was significantly associated with elevated titers after controlling for the subjects' age (adjusted OR = 3.6; 95% CI, 1.1-12.1). There was no evidence that previous infection with human H3N2 or H2N2 viruses were confounding the H9N2 seroreactivity. These data suggest that H9N2 virus may have circulated in Romanian poultry and occasionally infected man.
Keywords: Agriculture; Communicable diseases; Emerging; Influenza A virus; Seroepidemiologic studies; Zoonoses.
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