Natural La Crosse Virus Infection in the Red Fox (Vulpes Fulva), Gray Fox (Urocyon Cinereoargenteus), Raccoon (Procyon Lotor), and Opossum (Didelphis Virginiana)

T. E. AmundsonDepartment of Veterinary Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706

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T. M. YuillDepartment of Veterinary Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706

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Natural infection of sentinel red foxes (Vulpes fulva) and free-ranging red foxes, gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and raccoons (Procyon lotor) with La Crosse (LAC) virus was demonstrated. One isolate of LAC virus was obtained from a sentinel red fox in an enzootic area. The viremia titer of the LAC virus-infected red fox was above the threshold of infection for Aedes triseriatus mosquitoes. Antibody responses were measured by the microneutralization test employing four California group viruses: LAC, snowshoe hare, trivittatus, and Jamestown Canyon. Four of six sentinel red foxes developed LAC virus neutralizing antibody. Antibody titers peaked between days 7 and 34 and were still detectable by day 345 post-infection. Homologous LAC virus antibody titers were consistently 4-fold or greater than heterologous titers. Serological evidence for natural LAC virus infection was demonstrated in 33 of 57 (58%) free-ranging red foxes, 18 of 32 (57%) gray foxes, and 4 of 16 (25%) raccoons. Antibody titers were comparable in free-ranging foxes infected naturally and those infected experimentally by mosquito bite. The prevalence of infection was significantly different (P < 0.001) for foxes trapped in three distinct areas within the enzootic region. Rates of infection in foxes by area coincided with LAC virus antibody prevalence observed in free-ranging chipmunks and with reported cases of human LAC encephalitis in Wisconsin.

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