Surveillance of avian influenza viruses from 2014 to 2018 in South Korea

Surveillance of influenza A viruses (IAVs) among migratory waterfowl is a first step in understanding the ecology, biology, and pathogenicity of IAVs. As part of the nationwide surveillance effort for IAVs in fowl in South Korea, we collected environmental fecal samples in different migratory bird stopover sites in South Korea during the winter seasons within November 2014 through January 2018. We collected a total of 6758 fecal samples, 75 of which were positive for IAV (1.11% positivity). Prevalence of IAVs varied per site and per year. Based on sequencing, the most prevalent hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes were H1, H6, and H5, and the most prevalent neuraminidase (NA) subtypes were N1, N3, and N2. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the genes we isolated clustered with reported isolates collected from other locations along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. All the H5 and H7 isolates collected in this study were of low pathogenicity. None of the N1 and N2 genes carried amino acid markers of resistance against NA inhibitors. The winter 2016-2017 subset were primarily borne by migratory geese (Anser spp.). These results suggest that majority of the IAVs circulating among migratory wild fowl in South Korea in 2014-2018 were of low pathogenicity.