Original Contribution


, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 448-458

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Flying Over an Infected Landscape: Distribution of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Risk in South Asia and Satellite Tracking of Wild Waterfowl

  • Marius GilbertAffiliated withBiological Control and Spatial Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles CP160/12Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique Email author 
  • , Scott H. NewmanAffiliated withEMPRES Wildlife Unit, Animal Production and Health Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • , John Y. TakekawaAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center
  • , Leo LothAffiliated withFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • , Chandrashekhar BiradarAffiliated withUniversity of Oklahoma
  • , Diann J. ProsserAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research CenterUniversity of Maryland
  • , Sivananinthaperumal BalachandranAffiliated withBombay Natural History Society
  • , Mandava Venkata Subba RaoAffiliated withFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • , Taej MundkurAffiliated withWetlands International
    • , Baoping YanAffiliated withChinese Academy of Sciences
    • , Zhi XingAffiliated withQinghai Lake National Nature Reserve
    • , Yuansheng HouAffiliated withQinghai Lake National Nature Reserve
    • , Nyambayar BatbayarAffiliated withWildlife Science and Conservation Center
    • , Tseveenmayadag NatsagdorjAffiliated withMongolian Academy of Sciences
    • , Lenny HogerwerfAffiliated withBiological Control and Spatial Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles CP160/12Division of Epidemiology, Department of Farm Animal Health, Utrecht University
    • , Jan SlingenberghAffiliated withFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
    • , Xiangming XiaoAffiliated withUniversity of Oklahoma


Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus persists in Asia, posing a threat to poultry, wild birds, and humans. Previous work in Southeast Asia demonstrated that HPAI H5N1 risk is related to domestic ducks and people. Other studies discussed the role of migratory birds in the long distance spread of HPAI H5N1. However, the interplay between local persistence and long-distance dispersal has never been studied. We expand previous geospatial risk analysis to include South and Southeast Asia, and integrate the analysis with migration data of satellite-tracked wild waterfowl along the Central Asia flyway. We find that the population of domestic duck is the main factor delineating areas at risk of HPAI H5N1 spread in domestic poultry in South Asia, and that other risk factors, such as human population and chicken density, are associated with HPAI H5N1 risk within those areas. We also find that satellite tracked birds (Ruddy Shelduck and two Bar-headed Geese) reveal a direct spatio-temporal link between the HPAI H5N1 hot-spots identified in India and Bangladesh through our risk model, and the wild bird outbreaks in May–June–July 2009 in China (Qinghai Lake), Mongolia, and Russia. This suggests that the continental-scale dynamics of HPAI H5N1 are structured as a number of persistence areas delineated by domestic ducks, connected by rare transmission through migratory waterfowl.


avian influenza epidemiology disease ecology migration