Highly pathogenic clade 188.8.131.52 H5N8, H5N2, and H5N1 influenza A viruses were first detected in wild, captive, and domestic birds in North America in November-December 2014. In this study, we used wild waterbird samples collected in Alaska prior to the initial detection of clade 184.108.40.206 H5 influenza A viruses in North America to assess the evidence for: (1) dispersal of highly pathogenic influenza A viruses from East Asia to North America by migratory birds via Alaska and (2) ancestral origins of clade 220.127.116.11 H5 reassortant viruses in Beringia. Although we did not detect highly pathogenic influenza A viruses in our sample collection from western Alaska, we did identify viruses that contained gene segments sharing recent common ancestry with intercontinental reassortant H5N2 and H5N1 viruses. Results of phylogenetic analyses and estimates for times of most recent common ancestry support migratory birds sampled in Beringia as maintaining viral diversity closely related to novel highly pathogenic influenza A virus genotypes detected in North America. Although our results do not elucidate the route by which highly pathogenic influenza A viruses were introduced into North America, genetic evidence is consistent with the hypothesized trans-Beringian route of introduction via migratory birds.
Ramey, A. M., Reeves, A. B., TeSlaa, J. L., Nashold, S., Donnelly, T., Bahl, J., & Hall, J. S. (2016). Evidence for common ancestry among viruses isolated from wild birds in beringia and highly pathogenic intercontinental reassortant H5N1 and H5N2 influenza a viruses. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 40, 176–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2016.02.035