Influenza A and B viruses circulate among humans causing epidemics almost annually. While various hosts for influenza A viruses exist, influenza B viruses have been detected only in humans and seals. However, recurrent infections of seals in Dutch coastal waters with influenza B viruses that are antigenetically distinct from influenza B viruses circulating among humans suggest that influenza B viruses have been introduced into this seal population by another, non-human, host. Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) are sympatric with seals in these waters and are also occasionally in close contact with humans after stranding and subsequent rehabilitation. In addition, virus attachment studies demonstrated that influenza B viruses can bind to cells of the respiratory tract of these animals. Therefore, we hypothesized that harbour porpoises might be a reservoir of influenza B viruses. In the present study, an unique set of serum samples from 79 harbour porpoises, stranded alive on the Dutch coast between 2003 and 2013, was tested for the presence of antibodies against influenza B viruses by use of the hemagglutination inhibition test and for antibodies against influenza A viruses by use of a competitive influenza A nucleoprotein ELISA. No antibodies were detected against either virus, suggesting that influenza A and B virus infections of harbour porpoises in Dutch coastal waters are not common, which was supported by statistical analysis of the dataset.,
Department of Virology

Bodewes, R., van de Bildt, M., van Elk, N., Bunskoek, P., van de Vijver, D., Smits, S., … Kuiken, T. (2014). No serological evidence that harbour porpoises are additional hosts of influenza B viruses. PLoS ONE, 9(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089058