West Nile fever in Israel 1999-2000: from geese to humans

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Dec;951:127-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb02691.x.


West Nile virus (WNV) caused disease outbreaks in Israel in the 1950s and the late 1970s. In 1998 an outbreak of WNV in goose farms and evidence of infection in dead migratory birds were reported. Consequently, human diagnostic services for WNV were resumed, including virus isolation, serology, and RT-PCR. Risk factors for infection were assessed by a serological survey in 1999, which revealed a seroprevalence of (a) 86% in people who had close contact with sick geese, (b) 28% in people in areas along bird migration routes, and (c) 27% in the general population. Following two fatal cases in Tel Aviv in September 1999 and one encephalitis case in the southern Eilot region, a regional serological survey was initiated there. The survey revealed two more WNV-associated acute encephalitis cases, an IgG seroprevalence of 51%, and an IgM seroprevalence of 22%. In the summer of 2000, acute cases of WN disease were identified in the central and northern parts of Israel, involving 439 people. The outbreak started in mid-August, peaked in September, and declined in October, with 29 fatal cases, primarily in the elderly. During the outbreak, diagnosis was based on IgM detection. Four virus isolates were subsequently obtained from preseroconverted frozen sera. Sequence and phylogenetic analysis of 1662 bases covering the PreM, M, and part of the E genes revealed two lineages. One lineage was closely related to a 1999 Israeli bird (gull) isolate and to a 1999 New York bird (flamingo) isolate, and the other lineage was closely related to a 1997 Romanian mosquito isolate and to a 1999 Russian human brain isolate.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / blood
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Geese / virology
  • Humans
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • West Nile Fever / epidemiology*
  • West Nile Fever / transmission*
  • West Nile virus / genetics
  • West Nile virus / immunology
  • Zoonoses*


  • Antigens, Viral