In 1999–2000, Italy was affected by the most severe avian influenza (AI) epidemic that has ever occurred in Europe. The epidemic was caused by a type A influenza virus of the H7N1 subtype, which originated from the mutation of a low-pathogenicity (LP) AI virus of the same subtype. From August to November 2000, 4 months after the eradication of the highly pathogenic (HP) AI virus, the LPAI strain re-emerged and infected 55 poultry farms mainly located in the southern area of Verona province (Veneto region). To supplement disease control measures already in force, an emergency vaccination program against the disease was implemented in the area. Vaccination was carried out using an inactivated heterologous vaccine (A/chicken/Pakistan/1995-H7N3). In order to establish whether LPAI infection was circulating in the area, regular serological testing of sentinel birds in vaccinated flocks and a discriminatory test able to distinguish the different types of antineuraminidase antibodies (anti-N1 and anti-N3) were performed. Shortly after the beginning of the vaccination campaign (December 2000 to March 2001), the H7N1 LPAI virus emerged again, infecting 23 farms. Among these, only one vaccinated flock was affected, and infection did not spread further to other vaccinated farms. The data reported in the present paper indicate that the combination of biosecurity measures, official control, and vaccination can be considered successful for the control of LPAI infections in densely populated poultry areas.
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