Pathology and virus distribution in chickens naturally infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza a virus (H7N7) during the 2003 outbreak in The Netherlands
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The largest recorded outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus of the subtype H7N7 occurred in the Netherlands in 2003. We describe the immunohistochemical and histopathologic findings of 3 chickens naturally infected during this outbreak. Influenza virus antigen occurred in endothelial cells and mononuclear cells of all tissues examined and occurred in parenchymal cells of heart, lung, kidney, pancreas, and trachea, often associated with multifocal inflammation and necrosis. These findings are consistent with the acute stage of highly pathogenic avian influenza from other subtypes. In the severely edematous wattle skin, most endothelial cells contained virus antigen, while in all other tissues virus antigen was only detected in a few endothelial cells. Virus histochemistry showed that this H7N7 virus attached to more endothelial cells in wattle skin than in other vascular beds. This might explain, at least partly, the tropism of the virus and the associated severity of lesions in this tissue.