Limited information exists about exposure to influenza A viruses (IAVs) in many wild waterbird species, including loons. We analyzed serum samples from breeding adult Pacific (Gavia pacifica), Red-throated (Gavia stellata), and Yellow-billed (Gavia adamsii) loons sampled at three locations along the coast of Alaska, US from 2008 to 2017 to gain a better understanding of the potential role loons play in IAV ecology. We screened loon sera for IAV antibodies using three tests—blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (bELISA), agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID), and hemagglutination inhibition (HI)—and examined patterns in seroprevalence among species and sampling locations. We found evidence of IAV infection in all loon species and at all breeding locations, although concordance was imperfect among serological tests. Diagnostic tests yielded seroprevalence estimates of 24% (42/172) with bELISA, 8% (5/60) with AGID, and 6% (4/70) with HI. The IAV subtypes to which loon sera reacted using HI were consistent with those detected in waterfowl and gulls at other locations in Alaska, suggesting that loons may be exposed to IAV maintained in sympatric waterbirds. Our study provided evidence that loons inhabiting Alaska were exposed to IAV. However, given imperfect concordance among serologic tests, and relatively low seroprevalence as compared to other avian taxa exposed to IAV in Alaska, they make poor IAV surveillance targets.
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Vol. 55 • No. 4