Survey for Evidence of Colorado Tick Fever Virus Outside of the Known Endemic Area in California

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  • Vector Biology and Control Section and Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory, California State Department of Health Services, 2151 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94704

A virus very similar or identical to Colorado tick fever (CTF) virus was recovered from the blood clot of one of 104 black-tailed jack rabbits (Lepus californicus) examined during a survey for various zoonotic agents in mammals and ticks from the University of California, Hopland Field Station, Mendocino County, California, 1974–79. This is the first reported isolation of a CTF-like virus from L. californicus, and only the second time such a virus has been found in northwestern California. Mendocino County is located far outside the known distributional ranges of the most common mammalian hosts of CTF virus and of Dermacentor andersoni, the only proven tick vector for man. The viral isolate is very similar to a CTF-like virus previously recovered from the blood and spleen of a western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) from San Luis Obispo County, an area also outside of the previously-known CTF area. Virus was not isolated from 14 additional species of mammals (354 specimens) or from eight species of ticks (4,487 individuals), but CTF-neutralizing antibodies were detected in 28 of 771 (3.6%) sera from seven of 15 mammalian species including significant titers (⩾1:8) in two species and one subspecies not previously reported as natural hosts, i.e., brush mouse (Peromyscus boylii), pinyon mouse (P. truei), and Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus). CTF indirect immunofluorescent antibodies also were detected in 26 of 129 (20.2%) sera belonging to four of five mammalian species tested. Neutralizing antibodies were found in sera of deer from other localities in Mendocino County, from a deer mouse from Napa County, and from a brush rabbit from Monterey County as well. These findings suggest that a virus identical or similar to CTF virus is widespread in northwestern-westcentral California, and that surveillance for human cases of CTF or a similar disease should be extended to cover this region.

Author Notes

Present address: Department of Entomological Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720.