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Migratory Birds and the Dispersal of Arboviruses in California

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  • Center for Vectorborne Diseases, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California

Each spring large numbers of neotropical migrants traversing the Pacific flyway pass through the Coachella Valley enroute to northern destinations, providing an opportunity to test the hypothesis that mosquito-borne encephalitis viruses are introduced annually into California by migratory birds. A total of 5,632 sera were collected from 43 species of migrants during spring (April–June), of which 34 (0.61%) comprised of 14 species tested positive by enzyme immunoassay; only 10 were confirmed by plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNT). In addition, of 1,109 migrants comprised of 76 species that were reported dead by the public and necropsied, 126 (11%) were positive for West Nile virus (WNV) RNA; however, only three (0.7%) of 428 birds tested during the spring were positive. Limited experimental infection studies with WNV showed that Orange-crowned Warblers were highly susceptible and frequently died, whereas most Yellow Warblers survived. Our results indicated that birds entering California rarely exhibited a history of infection and that most birds probably became infected after entering California.

Author Notes

*Address correspondence to William K. Reisen, Center for Vectorborne Diseases, University of California, Davis, CA 95616. E-mail: wkreisen@ucdavis.edu

Financial support: This research was funded, in part, by research grants RO1-AI39483, RO1-AI47855, and RO1-AI55607 from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, ELC funding to the California Department of Public Health by the CDC, and by funds from the Coachella Valley MVCD.

Authors' addresses: William K. Reisen, Sarah S. Wheeler, Sandra Garcia, and Ying Fang, Center for Vectorborne Diseases, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, E-mails: wkreisen@ucdavis.edu, sswheeler@ucdavis.edu, sgarcia@ucdavis.edu, and ylfang@ucdavis.edu.

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