Incidence of West Nile Virus in Birds Arriving in Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers in Southern Spain

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Guillermo Lopez, Miguel Angel Jimenez-Clavero, Ana Vazquez, Ramon Soriguer, Concha Gomez-Tejedor, Antonio Tenorio, and Jordi Figuerola

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Guillermo Lopez Et Al; (2011); Incidence of West Nile Virus in Birds Arriving in Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers in Southern Spain; VECTOR-BORNE AND ZOONOTIC DISEASES; Volume 11, Number 3, 2011; DOI: 10.1089/vbz.2009.0232




Birds, Infectious disease, Mediterranean, Outbreak, Spain, West Nile Virus


West Nile virus (WNV) is a neurotropic mosquito-transmitted flavivirus that in Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas primarily affects birds and secondarily other vertebrates. WNV has caused frequent massive episodes of wild bird mortality during its expansion throughout the Americas, and has become a regulating factor in the population dynamics of many wild bird species. On the other hand, WNV-related mortalities in wild birds have rarely been reported in the Mediterranean Basin despite its well-documented circulation, and only sporadic outbreaks in horses have been documented. The causes underlying this contrasting epidemiological pattern have never been properly described. An initial suggestion is that Mediterranean and American strains possess different pathogenicities, whereas an alternative view proposes that WNV-related disease and mortalities may have been overlooked in Europe. To test these hypotheses, between 2004 and 2006 in southern Spain we sampled tissue from 119 wild bird carcasses to detect WNV and other flaviviruses, as well as blood from 227 wild birds arriving in wildlife rehabilitation centers to test for WNV seroprevalence. No flavivirus was found in the tissue samples. The prevalence of WNV-neutralizing antibodies was 2.2%, similar to that of 800 healthy birds of the same species that were captured in the field. Our results suggest that WNV circulation during the study period did not result in any detectable effects in terms of bird morbidity or mortality.