The role of rodents in avian influenza outbreaks in poultry farms: a review

Francisca C Velkers, Simon J Blokhuis, Edwin J B Veldhuis Kroeze, Sara A Burt

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    Wild migratory birds are associated with global avian influenza virus (AIV) spread. Although direct contact with wild birds and contaminated fomites is unlikely in modern non-free range poultry farms applying biosecurity measures, AIV outbreaks still occur. This suggests involvement of other intermediate factors for virus transmission between wild birds and poultry. This review describes current evidence of the potential role of rodents in AIV transmission from wild birds to poultry and between poultry houses. Rodents can be abundant around poultry houses, share their habitat with waterfowl and can readily enter poultry houses. Survival of AIV from waterfowl in poultry house surroundings and on the coat of rodents suggests that rodents are likely to act as mechanical vector. AIVs can replicate in rodents without adaptation, resulting in high viral titres in lungs and nasal turbinates, virus presence in nasal washes and saliva, and transmission to naïve contact animals. Therefore, active AIV shedding by infected rodents may play a role in transmission to poultry. Further field and experimental studies are needed to provide evidence for a role of rodents in AIV epidemiology. Making poultry houses rodent-proof and the immediate surroundings unattractive for rodents are recommended as preventive measures against possible AIV introduction.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)182-194
    Number of pages13
    JournalVeterinary Quarterly
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


    • Avian influenza
    • poultry
    • transmission
    • rodents
    • vector
    • migratory birds


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