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Despite considerable research efforts, little is yet known about key epidemiological parameters of H5N1 highly pathogenic influenza viruses in their avian hosts. Here we show how these parameters can be estimated using a limited number of birds in experimental transmission studies. Our quantitative estimates, based on Bayesian methods of inference, reveal that (i) the period of latency of H5N1 influenza virus in unvaccinated chickens is short (mean: 0.24 days; 95% credible interval: 0.099-0.48 days); (ii) the infectious period of H5N1 virus in unvaccinated chickens is approximately 2 days (mean: 2.1 days; 95%CI: 1.8-2.3 days); (iii) the reproduction number of H5N1 virus in unvaccinated chickens need not be high (mean: 1.6; 95%CI: 0.90-2.5), although the virus is expected to spread rapidly because it has a short generation interval in unvaccinated chickens (mean: 1.3 days; 95%CI: 1.0-1.5 days); and (iv) vaccination with genetically and antigenically distant H5N2 vaccines can effectively halt transmission. Simulations based on the estimated parameters indicate that herd immunity may be obtained if at least 80% of chickens in a flock are vaccinated. We discuss the implications for the control of H5N1 avian influenza virus in areas where it is endemic.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS pathogens

Publication Date





Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


Animals, Chickens, Influenza Vaccines, Vaccination, Bayes Theorem, Virus Latency, Immunity, Herd, Computer Simulation, Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype, Influenza in Birds