Wind-supported transport of particle matter (PM) contaminated with excreta from highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIv)-infected wild birds may be a HPAIv-introduction pathway, which may explain infections in indoor-housed poultry. The primary objective of our study was therefore to measure the nature and quantity of PM entering poultry houses via air-inlets. The air-inlets of two recently HPAIv-infected poultry farms (a broiler farm and a layer farm) were equipped with mosquito-net collection bags. PM was harvested every 5 days for 25 days. Video-camera monitoring registered wild bird visits. PM was tested for avian influenza viruses (AIV), Campylobacter and Salmonella with PCR. Insects, predominantly mosquitoes, were tested for AIV, West Nile, Usutu and Schmallenberg virus. A considerable number of mosquitoes and small PM amounts entered the air-inlets, mostly cobweb and plant material, but no wild bird feathers. Substantial variation in PM entering between air-inlets existed. In stormy periods, significantly larger PM amounts may enter wind-directed air-inlets. PM samples were AIV and Salmonella negative and insect samples were negative for all viruses and bacteria, but several broiler and layer farm PM samples tested Campylobacter positive. Regular wild (water) bird visits were observed near to the poultry houses. Air-borne PM and insects-potentially contaminated with HPAIv or other pathogens-can enter poultry air-inlets. Implementation of measures limiting this potential introduction route are recommended.
Keywords: Campylobacter; Salmonella; avian influenza virus; bird feathers; cobweb; faecal material; highly pathogenic avian influenza; insects; particle matter; plant; wild aquatic avian species.