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, 6 (4), 319-28

Migratory Birds and Spread of West Nile Virus in the Western Hemisphere


Migratory Birds and Spread of West Nile Virus in the Western Hemisphere

J H Rappole et al. Emerg Infect Dis.


West Nile virus, an Old World flavivirus related to St. Louis encephalitis virus, was first recorded in the New World during August 1999 in the borough of Queens, New York City. Through October 1999, 62 patients, 7 of whom died, had confirmed infections with the virus. Ornithophilic mosquitoes are the principal vectors of West Nile virus in the Old World, and birds of several species, chiefly migrants, appear to be the major introductory or amplifying hosts. If transovarial transmission or survival in overwintering mosquitoes were the principal means for its persistence, West Nile virus might not become established in the New World because of aggressive mosquito suppression campaigns conducted in the New York area. However, the pattern of outbreaks in southern Europe suggests that viremic migratory birds may also contribute to movement of the virus. If so, West Nile virus has the potential to cause outbreaks throughout both temperate and tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere.

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