Avian influenza infection dynamics under variable climatic conditions, viral prevalence is rainfall driven in waterfowl from temperate, south-east Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Understanding Avian Influenza Virus (AIV) infection dynamics in wildlife is crucial because of possible virus spill over to livestock and humans. Studies from the northern hemisphere have suggested several ecological and environmental drivers of AIV prevalence in wild birds. To determine if the same drivers apply in the southern hemisphere, where more irregular environmental conditions prevail, we investigated AIV prevalence in ducks in relation to biotic and abiotic factors in south-eastern Australia. We sampled duck faeces for AIV and tested for an effect of bird numbers, rainfall anomaly, temperature anomaly and long-term ENSO (El-Niño Southern Oscillation) patterns on AIV prevalence. We demonstrate a positive long term effect of ENSO-related rainfall on AIV prevalence. We also found a more immediate response to rainfall where AIV prevalence was positively related to rainfall in the preceding 3-7 months. Additionally, for one duck species we found a positive relationship between their numbers and AIV prevalence, while prevalence was negatively or not affected by duck numbers in the remaining four species studied. In Australia largely non-seasonal rainfall patterns determine breeding opportunities and thereby influence bird numbers. Based on our findings we suggest that rainfall influences age structures within populations, producing an influx of immunologically naïve juveniles within the population, which may subsequently affect AIV infection dynamics. Our study suggests that drivers of AIV dynamics in the northern hemisphere do not have the same influence at our south-east Australian field site in the southern hemisphere due to more erratic climatological conditions.


  • Ferenczi, M
  • Beckmann, C
  • Warner, S
  • Loyn, R
  • O'Riley, K
  • Wang, X
  • Klaassen, M

publication date

  • 2016