Volume 60, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


During a screening program to determine the extent of hantavirus activity in Orange and San Diego Counties, California, serum samples from 2,365 rodents representing nine genera and 15 species were tested for hantavirus antibodies. A reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction on selected seropositive rodents was used to identify the specific hantavirus. Rodents positive for Sin Nombre virus (SNV) antibodies by Western blot included 86 (9.1%) of 948 deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), four (1.5%) of 275 California mice (Peromyscus californicus), one (0.5%) of 196 cactus mice (Peromyscus eremicus), 51 (12.2%) of 417 harvest mice (Reithrodontomys megalotis), and five (12.5%) of 40 California voles (Microtus californicus). All other specimens tested were negative for hantavirus antibodies. There was a correlation between age and sex of the reservoir host and prevalence of SNV antibody, especially among male deer mice and harvest mice. Few seasonal trends in antibody prevalence were observed and continued maintenance of SNV and El Moro Canyon virus was found at several foci over a 4-5-year period. Isla Vista virus was also found in voles and represents the first recorded in Orange County. Microhabitat selection on the part of these rodents based on plant density, plant height, and availability of food plants may explain, to some extent, all of the hantavirus-positive foci throughout the study area over a broad geographic range and the lack of antibody-positive rodents in dense chaparral, woodland, and riparian areas. The majority of rodents positive for SNV was identified from localities along coastal bluffs and the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, where trap success was high and P. maniculatus represented 43% of all rodents collected. Several residential, commercial, and industrial sites exist in these areas and the potential health risk should not be overlooked. This study represents an in-depth analysis of the prevalence, host distribution, and characteristics of rodent populations infected by three hantaviruses within a small, well-defined, geographic area.


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