Infection of adult, 5- to 8- or 17-week-old golden hamsters with small doses of wild strains of Venezuelan encephalitis virus given subcutaneously produced viremia that began within 1 day of inoculation and lasted until death. Hamsters became ill 2 to 3 days after inoculation and died within 3 to 4 days. Thus, mosquitoes collected in hamster-baited traps within 3 days of death of the hamster could contain uneclipsed virus as a result of virus feedback to mosquitoes that bit the viremic hamster.
VE-virus concentrations in organs of hamsters, 42 to 48 hours after inoculation, ranged between 10-3.5 and 10-7.5 TCD50 per 0.1 g of heart, brain, lung, liver, kidney, skeletal muscle, or spleen. Virus concentrations were essentially the same whether hamsters appeared to be well or were ill or dead. Thus, any of these organs or blood can be used for isolation of VE virus from hamsters that die or become ill after exposure as sentinels in nature.