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Transmission of Influenza Viruses from Animals to People

Influenza A viruses are found in many different animals, including ducks, chickens, pigs, whales, horses, seals, and cats.

Influenza B viruses circulate widely only among humans.

Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two proteins on the surface of the virus: the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). There are 18 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 11 different neuraminidase subtypes. All known subtypes of influenza A viruses have been found among birds, except subtype H17N10 and H18N11 which have only been found in bats. Below is a table showing the different hemagglutinin and neuraminidase subtypes and the species in which they have been detected.

Wild birds are the primary natural reservoir for all subtypes of influenza A viruses and are thought to be the source of influenza A viruses in all other animals. Most influenza viruses cause asymptomatic or mild infection in birds; however, the range of symptoms in birds varies greatly depending on the properties of the virus. Infection with certain avian influenza A viruses (for example, some H5 and H7 viruses) can cause widespread, severe disease and death among some species of wild and especially domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys. (Viruses that cause severe illness and death in birds or poultry are called “highly pathogenic.”

Pigs can be infected with both human and avian influenza viruses in addition to swine influenza viruses. Infected pigs get symptoms similar to humans, such as cough, fever and runny nose. Because pigs are susceptible to avian, human and swine influenza viruses, they potentially may be infected with influenza viruses from different species (e.g., ducks and humans) at the same time. If this happens, it is possible for the genes of these viruses to mix and create a new virus.

For example, if a pig were infected with a human influenza virus and an avian influenza virus at the same time, the viruses could mix (reassort) and produce a new virus that had most of the genes from the human virus, but a hemagglutinin and/or neuraminidase from the avian virus. The resulting new virus would likely be able to infect humans and spread from person to person, but it would have surface proteins (hemagglutinin and/or neuraminidase) not previously seen in influenza viruses that infect humans. This type of major change in the influenza A viruses is known as antigenic shift. Antigenic shift results when a new influenza A subtype to which most people have little or no immune protection infects humans. If this new virus causes illness in people and can spread easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic can occur.

	This diagram depicts the origins of the H7N9 virus from China and shows how the viruss genes came from other influenza viruses in birds. Another example of reassortment is the H7N9 virus. The eight genes of the H7N9 virus are closely related to avian influenza viruses found in domestic ducks, wild birds and domestic poultry in Asia. Experts think multiple reassortment events led to the creation of the H7N9 virus. These events may have occurred in habitats shared by wild and domestic birds and/or in live bird/poultry markets, where different species of birds are bought and sold for food. As this diagram shows, the H7N9 virus likely obtained its HA (hemagglutinin) gene from domestic ducks, its NA (neuraminidase) gene from wild birds, and its six remaining genes from multiple related H9N2 influenza viruses in domestic poultry.

While it is unusual for people to get influenza infections directly from animals, sporadic human infections and outbreaks caused by certain avian influenza A viruses have been reported.

Influenza A Subtypes: Species Affected


SubType People Poultry Pigs Bats / Other
H1 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  
H2 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  
H3 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  Other Animals
H4   	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  Other Animals
H5 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  
H6 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    
H7 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    Other Animals
H8   	Affects poultry    
H9 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  
H10 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    
H11   	Affects poultry    
H12   	Affects poultry    
H13   	Affects poultry    
H14   	Affects poultry    
H15   	Affects poultry    
H16   	Affects poultry    
H17       	Affects bats
H18       	Affects bats


SubType People Poultry Pigs Bats / Other
N1 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  
N2 	Affects People 	Affects poultry 	Affects pigs  
N3   	Affects poultry    
N4   	Affects poultry    
N5   	Affects poultry    
N6 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    
N7 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    Other Animals
N8 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    Other Animals
N9 	Affects People 	Affects poultry    
N10       	Affects bats
N11       	Affects bats

For more information about other influenza viruses, please go to Other Flu Web Sites.