Drought-induced amplification and epidemic transmission of West Nile virus in southern Florida

J Med Entomol. 2005 Mar;42(2):134-41. doi: 10.1093/jmedent/42.2.134.


We show that the spatial-temporal variability of human West Nile (WN) cases and the transmission of West Nile virus (WNV) to sentinel chickens are associated with the spatial-temporal variability of drought and wetting in southern Florida. Land surface wetness conditions at 52 sites in 31 counties in southern Florida for 2001-2003 were simulated and compared with the occurrence of human WN cases and the transmission of WNV to sentinel chickens within these counties. Both WNV transmission to sentinel chickens and the occurrence of human WN cases were associated with drought 2-6 mo prior and land surface wetting 0.5-1.5 mo prior. These dynamics are similar to the amplification and transmission patterns found in southern Florida for the closely related St. Louis encephalitis virus. Drought brings avian hosts and vector mosquitoes into close contact and facilitates the epizootic cycling and amplification of the arboviruses within these populations. Southern Florida has not recorded a severe, widespread drought since the introduction of WNV into the state in 2001. Our results indicate that widespread drought in the spring followed by wetting during summer greatly increase the probability of a WNV epidemic in southern Florida.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Disasters*
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Poultry Diseases / transmission
  • Poultry Diseases / virology
  • West Nile Fever / epidemiology*
  • West Nile Fever / transmission*
  • West Nile Fever / veterinary
  • West Nile virus*