The principal objective of this study was to determine ecological associations of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-New Jersey and VSV-Indiana in rural Central America and Panama. Two types of information were linked: the results of neutralizing antibody tests performed on sera from 3,232 lifetime residents of 189 rural study communities of Central America and Panama, and ecological characteristics of the study communities as determined from natural resource atlases. The major finding was that neutralizing antibody acquisition to VSV-New Jersey was greatest for persons living at elevations between 350 and 649 meters, with relatively open, dry vegetation and distinct seasonal alternation of dry and moist (not wet) ground conditions. Similar ecological associations were found for VSV-Indiana, except that the risk of infection was also high in moist environments with dense tree cover. The results suggest that VSV-New Jersey and VSV-Indiana have similar but not identical maintenance and transmission cycles and that basic maintenance cycles for both viruses may exist in dry, open habitats rather than in tropical rain forest habitats as was previously assumed for VSV-Indiana.
Present address: Department of Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112.