Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has posed a significant threat to both humans and birds, and it has spanned large geographic areas and various ecological systems throughout Asia, Europe and Africa, but especially in mainland China. Great efforts in control and prevention of the disease, including universal vaccination campaigns in poultry and active serological and virological surveillance, have been undertaken in mainland China since the beginning of 2006. In this study, we aim to characterize the spatial and temporal patterns of HPAI H5N1, and identify influencing factors favoring the occurrence of HPAI H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in mainland China. Our study shows that HPAI H5N1 outbreaks took place sporadically after vaccination campaigns in poultry, and mostly occurred in the cold season. The positive tests in routine virological surveillance of HPAI H5N1 virus in chicken, duck, goose as well as environmental samples were mapped to display the potential risk distribution of the virus. Southern China had a higher positive rate than northern China, and positive samples were mostly detected from chickens in the north, while the majority were from duck in the south, and a negative correlation with monthly vaccination rates in domestic poultry was found (R
= −0.19, p
value = 0.005). Multivariate panel logistic regression identified vaccination rate, interaction between distance to the nearest city and national highway, interaction between distance to the nearest lake and wetland, and density of human population, as well as the autoregressive term in space and time as independent risk factors in the occurrence of HPAI H5N1 outbreaks, based on which a predicted risk map of the disease was derived. Our findings could provide new understanding of the distribution and transmission of HPAI H5N1 in mainland China and could be used to inform targeted surveillance and control efforts in both human and poultry populations to reduce the risk of future infections.
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