We evaluated the potential for avian-to-human transmission of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly path-ogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H7N1 and LPAI H7N3 viruses that were responsible for several outbreaks of influenza in poultry in Italy between 1999 and 2003. A serological survey of poultry workers was conducted by use of a combination of methods. Evidence of anti-H7 antibodies was observed in 3.8% of serum samples collected from poultry workers during the period in 2003 when LPAI H7N3 virus was circulating. These findings highlight the need for surveillance in people occupationally exposed to avian influenza viruses, so that they can be monitored for the risk of avian-to-human transmission during outbreaks of avian influenza caused by both LPAI and HPAI viruses.
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Received 13 December 2004; accepted 4 May 2005; electronically published 12 September 2005. Potential conflicts of interest: none reported. Financial support: Istituto Superiore di Sanità (grants 98JI and 4A1/F6); European Union (grant QLK2-CT-2001 01786); Health Protection Agency, United Kingdom. Reprints or correspondence: Dr. Isabella Donatelli, Department of Infectious, Parasitic and Immuno-Mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome Italy (email@example.com).