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CMAJ. 2007 Jan 2;176(1):47-53.

Protective measures and human antibody response during an avian influenza H7N3 outbreak in poultry in British Columbia, Canada.

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BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, BC.



In 2004 an outbreak of avian influenza of the H7N3 subtype occurred among poultry in British Columbia, Canada. We report compliance with recommended protective measures and associated human infections during this outbreak.


We sought voluntary participation by anyone (cullers, farmers and their families) involved in efforts to control the poultry outbreak. Recruitment was by advertisements at the worker deployment site, in local media and through newsletters sent directly to farmers. Sera were tested for antibody to H7N3 by microneutralization assay. A subset of 16 sera (including convalescent sera from 2 unprotected workers with conjunctivitis from whom virus had been isolated) was further tested by Western blot and routine and modified hemagglutination inhibition assays.


A total of 167 people (20% to 25% of all workers) participated between May 7 and July 26, 2004. Of these, 19 had experienced influenza-like illness and 21 had experienced red or watery eyes. There was no significant association between illness reports and exposure to infected birds. Among 65 people who entered barns with infected birds, 55 (85%) had received influenza vaccine, 48 (74%) had received oseltamivir, and 55 (85%), 54 (83%) and 36 (55%) reported always wearing gloves, mask or goggles, respectively. Antibody to the H7 subtype was not detected in any sera.


During the BC outbreak, compliance with recommended protective measures, especially goggles, was incomplete. Multiple back-up precautions, including oseltamivir prophylaxis, may prevent human infections and should be readily accessible and consistently used by those involved in the control of future outbreaks of avian influenza in poultry. Localized human avian influenza infections may not result in serologic response despite confirmed viral detection and culture.

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