[Wild birds--a reservoir for influenza A virus].
Influenza A viruses, in particular the H5 and H7 subtypes, have caused epizootic diseases in poultry for a long time. Wild aquatic birds and shorebirds form the natural virus reservoir. All influenza virus subtypes and almost all possible haemagglutinin/neuraminidase combinations have been detected in wild birds, whereas relatively few have been detected in humans and other mammals. In 1997, the emerging and spreading of the highly pathogenic strain H5N1 within Asia was supported by lack of hygiene in commercial poultry units and by the existence of live bird markets. During autumn 2005, migratory birds have been accused for spreading the infection along their flyways to Europe including Switzerland. For early detection of introduction to Europe, many countries have initiated surveillance programs for avian influenza in wild birds. Vaccines against influenza A viruses are existing for birds and are widely used to protect domestic fowl in endemic regions of Asia as well as valuable birds in zoos worldwide. Subtype H5N1 could be the progenitor virus of a new pandemic influenza virus. Therefore, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE, Paris) as well as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO, Rome) will need to increase their efforts to assist countries to combat the disease in the field.