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Emerg Infect Dis. 2008 Dec;14(12):1842-8. doi: 10.3201/eid1412.071371.

Influenza infection in wild raccoons.

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  • 1US Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, Colorado 53711, USA.


Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are common, widely distributed animals that frequently come into contact with wild waterfowl, agricultural operations, and humans. Serosurveys showed that raccoons are exposed to avian influenza virus. We found antibodies to a variety of influenza virus subtypes (H10N7, H4N6, H4N2, H3, and H1) with wide geographic variation in seroprevalence. Experimental infection studies showed that raccoons become infected with avian and human influenza A viruses, shed and transmit virus to virus-free animals, and seroconvert. Analyses of cellular receptors showed that raccoons have avian and human type receptors with a similar distribution as found in human respiratory tracts. The potential exists for co-infection of multiple subtypes of influenza virus with genetic reassortment and creation of novel strains of influenza virus. Experimental and field data indicate that raccoons may play an important role in influenza disease ecology and pose risks to agriculture and human health.

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