U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Avian Influenza Virus RNA in Groundwater Wells Supplying Poultry Farms Affected by the 2015 Influenza Outbreak

Borchardt, Mark A., Spencer, Susan K., Hubbard, Laura E., Firnstahl, Aaron D., Stokdyk, Joel P., Kolpin, Dana W.
Environmental Science & Technology Letters 2017 v.4 no.7 pp. 268-272
Influenza A virus, Protoparvovirus, cell culture, disease outbreaks, disease transmission, eggs, farms, feces, genes, groundwater, groundwater contamination, hemagglutinins, influenza, ponds, poultry, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, sampling, viruses, waste lagoons, wells, Iowa, Wisconsin
During the 2015 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAI) on poultry farms in the midwestern United States, concern was raised about the potential for HPAI to contaminate groundwater. Our study objective was to evaluate the occurrence of HPAI in the groundwater supply wells on 13 outbreak-affected poultry farms in Iowa and Wisconsin. We sampled 20 wells, six waste-storage lagoons, and one pond. Three wells and one lagoon were positive for the matrix gene indicative of influenza A virus. Using a semi-nested qPCR assay specific to the H5 HPAI outbreak strain, one well was H5-positive, matching the outbreak virus hemagglutinin gene. Matrix gene-positive samples analyzed for avian influenza virus (AIV) by cell culture and embryonating egg culture were negative. Seven wells were positive by PCR for a poultry-specific parvovirus, thus providing corroborating evidence of virus transport pathways between poultry fecal wastes and groundwater. Our data suggest it is possible for AIV to be transported to groundwater, and during an outbreak, the potential for poultry farm wells to become contaminated with AIV should be considered.