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Zoonoses Public Health. 2010 Jun;57(4):227-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2008.01223.x.

Contact variables for exposure to avian influenza H5N1 virus at the human-animal interface.

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


Although the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus continues to cause infections in both avian and human populations, the specific zoonotic risk factors remain poorly understood. This review summarizes available evidence regarding types of contact associated with transmission of H5N1 virus at the human-animal interface. A systematic search of the published literature revealed five analytical studies and 15 case reports describing avian influenza transmission from animals to humans for further review. Risk factors identified in analytical studies were compared, and World Health Organization-confirmed cases, identified in case reports, were classified according to type of contact reported using a standardized algorithm. Although cases were primarily associated with direct contact with sick/unexpectedly dead birds, some cases reported only indirect contact with birds or contaminated environments or contact with apparently healthy birds. Specific types of contacts or activities leading to exposure could not be determined from data available in the publications reviewed. These results support previous reports that direct contact with sick birds is not the only means of human exposure to avian influenza H5N1 virus. To target public health measures and disease awareness messaging for reducing the risk of zoonotic infection with avian influenza H5N1 virus, the specific types of contacts and activities leading to transmission need to be further understood. The role of environmental virus persistence, shedding of virus by asymptomatic poultry and disease pathophysiology in different avian species relative to human zoonotic risk, as well as specific modes of zoonotic transmission, should be determined.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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