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Exploring the Wind-Borne Spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 During the 2016–2017 Epizootic in France

Guinat, C., Rouchy, N., Camy, F., Guérin, J. L., Paul, M. C.
Avian diseases 2018 v.63 no.sp1 pp. 235-237
Influenza A virus, avian influenza, epizootic diseases, interdisciplinary research, models, outbreak investigation, poultry, research institutions, risk, storms, veterinary medicine, viruses, wind direction, winter, France
In winter 2016–2017, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 virus spread in France, causing an unprecedented epizootic. During the epidemic, southwest France, where most outbreaks were reported, experienced severe weather, with three consecutive storms (Leiv, Kurt, and Marcel) from 3 to 5 February 2017. Although little information is available, one hypothesis is that the spread of HPAI-H5N8 from an infected poultry holding could have been passively facilitated by prevailing wind during the risk period. The aim of this study was therefore to assess the contribution of the wind-borne route to the spatial distribution of HPAI H5N8 outbreaks during the risk period at the beginning of February 2017. The PERLE model, an atmospheric dispersion model (ADM) developed by Météo-France, the French meteorological agency, was used to generate the predicted area at risk of infection from a suspected point source. Model outputs show that the spatial pattern of dust-particle deposition was directed east–southeast in accordance with wind direction. This contrasted with the spatial distribution of HPAI H5N8 outbreaks, which spread westward. These observations suggest that the wind-borne route alone was insufficient to explain the spatial distribution of outbreaks over large distances in southwest France at the beginning of February 2017. Finally, this study illustrates the relevance of close collaboration between governmental authorities, veterinary research institutes, and meteorological agencies involving interdisciplinary research for successful outbreak investigations.