Avian (AIV) and equine influenza virus (EIV) have been repeatedly shown to circulate among Mongolia's migrating birds or domestic horses. In 2009, 439 Mongolian adults, many with occupational exposure to animals, were enrolled in a prospective cohort study of zoonotic influenza transmission. Sera were drawn upon enrollment and again at 12 and 24 months. Participants were contacted monthly for 24 months and queried regarding episodes of acute influenza-like illnesses (ILI). Cohort members confirmed to have acute influenza A infections, permitted respiratory swab collections which were studied with rRT-PCR for influenza A. Serologic assays were performed against equine, avian, and human influenza viruses. Over the 2 yrs of follow-up, 100 ILI investigations in the cohort were conducted. Thirty-six ILI cases (36%) were identified as influenza A infections by rRT-PCR; none yielded evidence for AIV or EIV. Serological examination of 12 mo and 24 mo annual sera revealed 37 participants had detectable antibody titers (≥1:10) against studied viruses during the course of study follow-up: 21 against A/Equine/Mongolia/01/2008(H3N8); 4 against an avian A/Teal/Hong Kong/w3129(H6N1), 11 against an avian-like A/Hong Kong/1073/1999(H9N2), and 1 against an avian A/Migrating duck/Hong Kong/MPD268/2007(H10N4) virus. However, all such titers were <1:80 and none were statistically associated with avian or horse exposures. A number of subjects had evidence of seroconversion to zoonotic viruses, but the 4-fold titer changes were again not associated with avian or horse exposures. As elevated antibodies against seasonal influenza viruses were high during the study period, it seems likely that cross-reacting antibodies against seasonal human influenza viruses were a cause of the low-level seroreactivity against AIV or EIV. Despite the presence of AIV and EIV circulating among wild birds and horses in Mongolia, there was little evidence of AIV or EIV infection in this prospective study of Mongolians with animal exposures.
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