The highly pathogenic avian influenza strain H5N1 was first detected in Europe in 2005, and has since been documented continent-wide in wild birds and poultry. However, the relative roles of each host group in transmission remain contentious. Using recently developed tools for analysis of ecological niches and geographic distributions of species, we compared ecological niche requirements for H5N1 between paired host groups (poultry versus wild birds, Anseriformes versus Falconiformes, swans versus non-swan Anseriformes). If environmental signals of different host groups are significantly different, the groups are likely to be involved in distinct transmission cycles. In contrast, models for which similarity cannot be rejected imply no unique ecological niches and no potential linkage of transmission cycles. In 24 similarity tests, we found significant similarity (13/24) or no significant differences (9/24). Although 2 of the 24 analyses showed significant differences, neither was unequivocal, so we conclude an overall signal of niche similarity among groups. We thus could not document distinct ecological niches for H5N1 occurrences in different host groups and conclude that the transmission cycles are broadly interwoven.
Williams, Richard A. J., Xiang-Ming Xiao, and A. Townsend Peterson. "Continent-wide Association of H5N1 Outbreaks in Wild and Domestic Birds in Europe." Geospatial Health 5.2 (2011): 247.