Insights into environmental conditions that affect highly pathogenic bird flu virus survival

Oct 13, 2010

On the eve of the 2010-11 influenza flu season, scientists and engineers have identified the environmental conditions and surfaces that could enable a highly pathogenic (H5N1) bird flu virus to survive for prolonged periods of time — at least two weeks and up to two months. Among them: The virus appears to thrive at cooler temperatures and low humidity. The study, which could lead to new strategies for preventing the flu virus from spreading, appears in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

Joseph Wood and colleagues note that the highly pathogenic () avian virus so far has been rare but dangerous in humans, with mortality rates of about 60 percent. Although the H5N1 virus may spread to humans by direct contact with infected birds or other virus-contaminated material, health experts are concerned that the virus could evolve to develop the ability to spread from person to person, and cause serious outbreaks. However, there is little information on how different environmental conditions and materials affect H5N1's survival.

The scientists investigated the ability of a strain of highly pathogenic H5N1 originating from Viet Nam to survive on a variety of materials under different environmental conditions, including changes in temperature, humidity, and simulated sunlight. The materials included glass, wood, steel, soil, and chicken feces. They found that H5N1 survived longer (up to two weeks) at cooler temperatures — around 39 degrees Fahrenheit — but lasted only up to one day at room temperature. The virus also tends to persist at low humidity and no sunlight and on certain surfaces, including glass and steel.

Although when exposed to simulated sunlight, the virus survived longer on soil and chicken feces compared to the other materials. It could potentially survive for up to two months on those materials, they estimate. At low temperatures and low humidity, the virus actually survived longer on steel, glass, and soil than in chicken feces, a common source for spreading the virus. "Measures taken to contain and inactivate the virus, especially in these areas or conditions, may be warranted," the article notes.

Explore further: India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

More information: "Environmental Persistence of a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) Virus", Environmental Science & Technology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bird flu virus strain found in Maryland

Sep 12, 2006

U.S. scientists say an H5N1 avian influenza virus found earlier this month in Maryland is a low pathogenic subtype and poses no threat to humans.

North American birds in avian flu study

Oct 23, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've found the common wood duck and laughing gull are susceptible to the H5N1 avian influenza virus and could transmit the disease.

Virus hybridization could create pandemic bird flu

Feb 22, 2010

Genetic interactions between avian H5N1 influenza and human seasonal influenza viruses have the potential to create hybrid strains combining the virulence of bird flu with the pandemic ability of H1N1, according to a new ...

Bird flu vaccine protects people and pets

Oct 20, 2008

A single vaccine could be used to protect chickens, cats and humans against deadly flu pandemics, according to an article published in the November issue of the Journal of General Virology. The vaccine protects birds and ma ...

Hong Kong bird tests positive for H5N1

Mar 06, 2009

Hong Kong authorities said Friday that a dead chicken found in the southern Chinese territory had tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.

Less virulent bird flu may infect humans

Sep 14, 2005

Italian researchers say they've determined, for the first time, a less-virulent strain of avian influenza virus might spread from poultry to humans.

Recommended for you

India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

5 hours ago

India's environment court has slammed the government over the capital's horrendous air pollution, which it said was "getting worse" every day, and ordered a string of measures to bring it down.

US proposes stricter ozone limits

15 hours ago

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Wednesday to strengthen emission regulations for ozone, a smog-causing pollutant blamed for respiratory ailments affecting millions of Americans.

Deforestation drops 18 percent in Brazil's Amazon

18 hours ago

Deforestation in the Amazon rain forest dropped 18 percent over the past 12 months, falling to the second-lowest level in a quarter century, Brazil's environment minister said Wednesday.

The unbelievable underworld and its impact on us all

20 hours ago

A new study has pulled together research into the most diverse place on earth to demonstrate how the organisms below-ground could hold the key to understanding how the worlds ecosystems function and how they ...

Toolkit for ocean health

22 hours ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.