Evidence for subclinical H5N1 avian influenza infections among Nigerian poultry workers
In recent years Nigeria has experienced sporadic incursions of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza among poultry. In 2008, 316 poultry-exposed agricultural workers, and 54 age-group matched non-poultry exposed adults living in the Enugu or Ebonyi States of Nigeria were enrolled and then contacted monthly for 24 months to identify acute influenza-like-illnesses. Annual follow-up sera and questionnaire data were collected at 12 and 24 months. Participants reporting influenza-like illness completed additional questionnaires, and provided nasal and pharyngeal swabs and acute and convalescent sera. Swab and sera specimens were studied for evidence of influenza A virus infection. Sera were examined for elevated antibodies against 12 avian influenza viruses by microneutralization and 3 human viruses by hemagglutination inhibition. Four (3.2%) of the 124 acute influenza-like-illness investigations yielded molecular evidence of influenza, but virus could not be cultured. Serial serum samples from five poultry-exposed subjects had a ?4-fold change in microneutralization titers against A/CK/Nigeria/07/1132123(H5N1), with three of those having titers ?1:80 (maximum 1:1,280). Three of the five subjects (60%) reported a preceding influenza-like illness. Hemagglutination inhibition titers were ?4-fold increases against one of the human viruses in 260 participants. While cross-reactivity from antibodies against other influenza viruses cannot be ruled out as a partial confounder, over the course of the 2-year follow-up, at least 3 of 316 (0.9%) poultry-exposed subjects had evidence for subclinical HPAI H5N1 infections. If these data represent true infections, it seems imperative to increase monitoring for avian influenza among Nigeria's poultry and poultry workers. J. Med. Virol. 86:2070–2075, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.