Risk based surveillance for early detection of low pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks in layer chickens

Gonzales, J.L.; Boender, G.J.; Elbers, A.R.W.; Stegeman, J.A.; Koeijer, A.A. de


Current knowledge does not allow the prediction of when low pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAIV) of the H5 and H7 subtypes infecting poultry will mutate to their highly pathogenic phenotype (HPAIV). This mutation may already take place in the first infected flock; hence early detection of LPAIV outbreaks will reduce the likelihood of pathogenicity mutations and large epidemics. The objective of this study was the development of a model for the design and evaluation of serological-surveillance programmes, with a particular focus on early detection of LPAIV infections in layer chicken flocks. Early detection is defined as the detection of an infected flock before it infects on average more than one other flock (between-flock reproduction ratio Rf <1), hence a LPAI introduction will be detected when only one or a few other flocks are infected. We used a mathematical model that investigates the required sample size and sampling frequency for early detection by taking into account the LPAIV within- and between-flock infection dynamics as well as the diagnostic performance of the serological test used. Since layer flocks are the target of the surveillance, we also explored whether the use of eggs, is a good alternative to sera, as sample commodity. The model was used to refine the current Dutch serological-surveillance programme. LPAIV transmission-risk maps were constructed and used to target a risk-based surveillance strategy. In conclusion, we present a model that can be used to explore different sampling strategies, which combined with a cost-benefit analysis would enhance surveillance programmes for low pathogenic avian influenza.