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Volume 7, Number 4—August 2001

Volume 7, Number 4—August 2001   PDF Version [PDF - 3.08 MB - 161 pages]

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus

  • West Nile Virus: A Reemerging Global Pathogen PDF Version [PDF - 105 KB - 4 pages]
    L. R. Petersen and J. T. Roehrig
  • Crow Deaths as a Sentinel Surveillance System for West Nile Virus in the Northeastern United States, 1999 PDF Version [PDF - 186 KB - 6 pages]
    M. Eidson et al.
       View Abstract

    In addition to human encephalitis and meningitis cases, the West Nile (WN) virus outbreak in the summer and fall of 1999 in New York State resulted in bird deaths in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. From August to December 1999, 295 dead birds were laboratory-confirmed with WN virus infection; 262 (89%) were American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). The New York State Department of Health received reports of 17,339 dead birds, including 5,697 (33%) crows; in Connecticut 1,040 dead crows were reported. Bird deaths were critical in identifying WN virus as the cause of the human outbreak and defining its geographic and temporal limits. If established before a WN virus outbreak, a surveillance system based on bird deaths may provide a sensitive method of detecting WN virus.

  • Serologic Evidence for West Nile Virus Infection in Birds in the New York City Vicinity During an Outbreak in 1999 PDF Version [PDF - 71 KB - 3 pages]
    N. Komar et al.
       View Abstract

    As part of an investigation of an encephalitis outbreak in New York City, we sampled 430 birds, representing 18 species in four orders, during September 13-23, 1999, in Queens and surrounding counties. Overall, 33% were positive for West Nile (WN) virus-neutralizing antibodies, and 0.5% were positive for St. Louis encephalitis virus-neutralizing antibodies. By county, Queens had the most seropositive birds for WN virus (50%); species with the greatest seropositivity for WN virus (sample sizes were at least six) were Domestic Goose, Domestic Chicken, House Sparrow, Canada Goose, and Rock Dove. One sampled bird, a captive adult Domestic Goose, showed signs of illness; WN virus infection was confirmed. Our results support the concept that chickens and House Sparrows are good arbovirus sentinels. This study also implicates the House Sparrow as an important vertebrate reservoir host.

  • West Nile Virus Isolates from Mosquitoes in New York and New Jersey, 1999 PDF Version [PDF - 55 KB - 5 pages]
    R. S. Nasci et al.
       View Abstract

    An outbreak of encephalitis due to West Nile (WN) virus occurred in New York City and the surrounding areas during 1999. Mosquitoes were collected as part of a comprehensive surveillance program implemented to monitor the outbreak. More than 32,000 mosquitoes representing 24 species were tested, and 15 WN virus isolates were obtained. Molecular techniques were used to identify the species represented in the WN virus-positive mosquito pools. Most isolates were from pools containing Culex pipiens mosquitoes, but several pools contained two or more Culex species.

  • Dead Bird Surveillance as an Early Warning System for West Nile Virus PDF Version [PDF - 157 KB - 5 pages]
    M. Eidson et al.
       View Abstract

    As part of West Nile (WN) virus surveillance in New York State in 2000, 71,332 ill or dead birds were reported; 17,571 (24.6%) of these were American Crows. Of 3,976 dead birds tested, 1,263 (31.8%) were positive for WN virus. Viral activity was first confirmed in 60 of the state's 62 counties with WN virus-positive dead birds. Pathologic findings compatible with WN virus were seen in 1,576 birds (39.6% of those tested), of which 832 (52.8%) were positive for WN virus. Dead crow reports preceded confirmation of viral activity by several months, and WN virus-positive birds were found >3 months before the onset of human cases. Dead bird surveillance appears to be valuable for early detection of WN virus and for guiding public education and mosquito control efforts.

  • West Nile Virus Surveillance in Connecticut in 2000: An Intense Epizootic without High Risk for Severe Human Disease PDF Version [PDF - 118 KB - 7 pages]
    J. Hadler et al.
       View Abstract

    In 1999, Connecticut was one of three states in which West Nile (WN) virus actively circulated prior to its recognition. In 2000, prospective surveillance was established, including monitoring bird deaths, testing dead crows, trapping and testing mosquitoes, testing horses and hospitalized humans with neurologic illness, and conducting a human seroprevalence survey. WN virus was first detected in a dead crow found on July 5 in Fairfield County. Ultimately, 1,095 dead crows, 14 mosquito pools, 7 horses, and one mildly symptomatic person were documented with WN virus infection. None of 86 hospitalized persons with neurologic illness (meningitis, encephalitis, Guillain-Barré-like syndrome) and no person in the seroprevalence survey were infected. Spraying in response to positive surveillance findings was minimal. An intense epizootic of WN virus can occur without having an outbreak of severe human disease in the absence of emergency adult mosquito management.

  • Mosquito Surveillance and Polymerase Chain Reaction Detection of West Nile Virus, New York State PDF Version [PDF - 171 KB - 7 pages]
    D. J. White et al.
       View Abstract

    West Nile (WN) virus was detected in the metropolitan New York City (NYC) area during the summer and fall of 1999. Sixty-two human cases, 7 fatal, were documented. The New York State Department of Health initiated a departmental effort to implement a statewide mosquito and virus surveillance system. During the 2000 arbovirus surveillance season, we collected 317,676 mosquitoes, submitted 9,952 pools for virus testing, and detected 363 WN virus-positive pools by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Eight species of mosquitoes were found infected. Our mosquito surveillance system complemented other surveillance systems in the state to identify relative risk for human exposure to WN virus. PCR WN virus-positive mosquitoes were detected in NYC and six counties in the lower Hudson River Valley and metropolitan NYC area. Collective surveillance activities suggest that WN virus can disperse throughout the state and may impact local health jurisdictions in the state in future years.

  • Partial Genetic Characterization of West Nile Virus Strains, New York State, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 49 KB - 4 pages]
    G. D. Ebel et al.
       View Abstract

    We analyzed nucleotide sequences from the envelope gene of 11 West Nile (WN) virus strains collected in New York State during the 2000 transmission season to determine whether they differed genetically from each other and from the initial strain isolated in 1999. The complete envelope genes of these strains were amplified by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. The resulting sequences were aligned, the genetic distances were computed, and a phylogenetic tree was constructed. Ten (0.7%) of 1,503 positions in the envelope gene were polymorphic in one or more sequences. The genetic distances were 0.003 or less. WN virus strains circulating in 2000 were homogeneous with respect to one another and to a strain isolated in 1999.

  • Clinical Findings of West Nile Virus Infection in Hospitalized Patients, New York and New Jersey, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 83 KB - 5 pages]
    D. Weiss et al.
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    Outbreaks of West Nile (WN) virus occurred in the New York metropolitan area in 1999 and 2000. Nineteen patients diagnosed with WN infection were hospitalized in New York and New Jersey in 2000 and were included in this review. Eleven patients had encephalitis or meningoencephalitis, and eight had meningitis alone. Ages of patients ranged from 36 to 87 years (median 63 years). Fever and neurologic and gastrointestinal symptoms predominated. Severe muscle weakness on neurologic examination was found in three patients. Age was associated with disease severity. Hospitalized cases and deaths were lower in 2000 than in 1999, although the case-fatality rate was unchanged. Clinicians in the Northeast should maintain a high level of suspicion during the summer when evaluating older patients with febrile illnesses and neurologic symptoms, especially if associated with gastrointestinal complaints or muscle weakness.

  • West Nile Encephalitis in Israel, 1999: The New York Connection PDF Version [PDF - 46 KB - 3 pages]
    M. Giladi et al.
       View Abstract

    We describe two cases of West Nile (WN) encephalitis in a married couple in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1999. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction performed on a brain specimen from the husband detected a WN viral strain nearly identical to avian strains recovered in Israel in 1998 (99.9% genomic sequence homology) and in New York in 1999 (99.8%). This result supports the hypothesis that the 1999 WN virus epidemic in the United States originated from the introduction of a strain that had been circulating in Israel.

  • Dead Crow Densities and Human Cases of West Nile Virus, New York State, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 60 KB - 3 pages]
    M. Eidson et al.
       View Abstract

    In 2000, Staten Island, New York, reported 10 human West Nile virus cases and high densities of dead crows. Surrounding counties with <2 human cases had moderate dead crow densities, and upstate counties with no human cases had low dead crow densities. Monitoring such densities may be helpful because this factor may be determined without the delays associated with specimen collection and testing.

  • Equine West Nile Encephalitis, United States PDF Version [PDF - 57 KB - 5 pages]
    E. N. Ostlund et al.
       View Abstract

    After the 1999 outbreak of West Nile (WN) encephalitis in New York horses, a case definition was developed that specified the clinical signs, coupled with laboratory test results, required to classify cases of WN encephalitis in equines as either probable or confirmed. In 2000, 60 horses from seven states met the criteria for a confirmed case. The cumulative experience from clinical observations and diagnostic testing during the 1999 and 2000 outbreaks of WN encephalitis in horses will contribute to further refinement of diagnostic criteria.

  • Mosquito Surveillance for West Nile Virus in Connecticut, 2000: Isolation from Culex pipiens, Cx. restuans, Cx. salinarius, and Culiseta melanura PDF Version [PDF - 81 KB - 5 pages]
    T. G. Andreadis et al.
       View Abstract

    Fourteen isolations of West Nile (WN) virus were obtained from four mosquito species (Culex pipiens [5], Cx. restuans [4], Cx. salinarius [2], and Culiseta melanura [3]) in statewide surveillance conducted from June through October 2000. Most isolates were obtained from mosquitoes collected in densely populated residential locales in Fairfield and New Haven counties, where the highest rates of dead crow sightings were reported and where WN virus was detected in 1999. Minimum field infection rates per 1,000 mosquitoes ranged from 0.5 to 1.8 (county based) and from 1.3 to 76.9 (site specific). Cx. restuans appears to be important in initiating WN virus transmission among birds in early summer; Cx. pipiens appears to play a greater role in amplifying virus later in the season. Cs. melanura could be important in the circulation of WN virus among birds in sylvan environments; Cx. salinarius is a suspected vector of WN virus to humans and horses.

  • Clinical Characteristics of the West Nile Fever Outbreak, Israel, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 56 KB - 4 pages]
    M. Y. Chowers et al.
       View Abstract

    West Nile (WN) virus is endemic in Israel. The last reported outbreak had occurred in 1981. From August to October 2000, a large-scale epidemic of WN fever occurred in Israel; 417 cases were confirmed, with 326 hospitalizations. The main clinical presentations were encephalitis (57.9%), febrile disease (24.4%), and meningitis (15.9%). Within the study group, 33 (14.1%) hospitalized patients died. Mortality was higher among patients >70 years (29.3%). On multivariate regressional analysis, independent predictors of death were age >70 years (odds ratio [OR] 7.7), change in level of consciousness (OR 9.0), and anemia (OR 2.7). In contrast to prior reports, WN fever appears to be a severe illness with high rate of central nervous system involvement and a particularly grim outcome in the elderly.

  • West Nile Virus Infection in Birds and Mosquitoes, New York State, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 85 KB - 7 pages]
    K. A. Bernard et al.
       View Abstract

    West Nile (WN) virus was found throughout New York State in 2000, with the epicenter in New York City and surrounding counties. We tested 3,403 dead birds and 9,954 mosquito pools for WN virus during the transmission season. Sixty-three avian species, representing 30 families and 14 orders, tested positive for WN virus. The highest proportion of dead birds that tested positive for WN virus was in American Crows in the epicenter (67% positive, n=907). Eight mosquito species, representing four genera, were positive for WN virus. The minimum infection rate per 1,000 mosquitoes (MIR) was highest for Culex pipiens in the epicenter: 3.53 for the entire season and 7.49 for the peak week of August 13. Staten Island had the highest MIR (11.42 for Cx. pipiens), which was associated with the highest proportion of dead American Crows that tested positive for WN virus (92%, n=48) and the highest number of human cases (n=10).

  • West Nile Fever Outbreak, Israel, 2000: Epidemiologic Aspects PDF Version [PDF - 81 KB - 6 pages]
    M. Weinberger et al.
       View Abstract

    From August 1 to October 31, 2000, 417 cases of West Nile (WN) fever were serologically confirmed throughout Israel; 326 (78%) were hospitalized patients. Cases were distributed throughout the country; the highest incidence was in central Israel, the most populated part. Men and women were equally affected, and their mean age was 54±23.8 years (range 6 months to 95 years). Incidence per 1,000 population increased from 0.01 in the 1st decade of life to 0.87 in the 9th decade. There were 35 deaths (case-fatality rate 8.4%), all in patients >50 years of age. Age-specific case-fatality rate increased with age. Central nervous system involvement occurred in 170 (73%) of 233 hospitalized patients. The countrywide spread, number of hospitalizations, severity of the disease, and high death rate contrast with previously reported outbreaks in Israel.

  • West Nile Outbreak in Horses in Southern France, 2000: The Return after 35 Years PDF Version [PDF - 107 KB - 5 pages]
    B. Murgue et al.
       View Abstract

    On September 6, 2000, two cases of equine encephalitis caused by West Nile (WN) virus were reported in southern France (Hérault Province), near Camargue National Park, where a WN outbreak occurred in 1962. Through November 30, 76 cases were laboratory confirmed among 131 equines with neurologic disorders. The last confirmed case was on November 3, 2000. All but three cases were located in a region nicknamed "la petite Camargue," which has several large marshes, numerous colonies of migratory and resident birds, and large mosquito populations. No human case has been confirmed among clinically suspected patients, nor have abnormal deaths of birds been reported. A serosurvey has been undertaken in horses in the infected area, and other studies are in progress.

  • The Relationships between West Nile and Kunjin Viruses PDF Version [PDF - 146 KB - 9 pages]
    J. H. Scherret et al.
       View Abstract

    Until recently, West Nile (WN) and Kunjin (KUN) viruses were classified as distinct types in the Flavivirus genus. However, genetic and antigenic studies on isolates of these two viruses indicate that the relationship between them is more complex. To better define this relationship, we performed sequence analyses on 32 isolates of KUN virus and 28 isolates of WN virus from different geographic areas, including a WN isolate from the recent outbreak in New York. Sequence comparisons showed that the KUN virus isolates from Australia were tightly grouped but that the WN virus isolates exhibited substantial divergence and could be differentiated into four distinct groups. KUN virus isolates from Australia were antigenically homologous and distinct from the WN isolates and a Malaysian KUN virus. Our results suggest that KUN and WN viruses comprise a group of closely related viruses that can be differentiated into subgroups on the basis of genetic and antigenic analyses.

  • Rapid Determination of HLA B*07 Ligands from the West Nile Virus NY99 Genome PDF Version [PDF - 87 KB - 8 pages]
    A. S. De Groot et al.
       View Abstract

    Defined T cell epitopes for West Nile (WN) virus may be useful for developing subunit vaccines against WN virus infection and diagnostic reagents to detect WN virus-specific immune response. We applied a bioinformatics (EpiMatrix) approach to search the WN virus NY99 genome for HLA B*07 restricted cytotoxic T cell (CTL) epitopes. Ninety-five of 3,433 WN virus peptides scored above a predetermined cutoff, suggesting that these would be likely to bind to HLA B*07 and would also be likely candidate CTL epitopes. Compared with other methods for genome mapping, derivation of these ligands was rapid and inexpensive. Major histocompatibility complex ligands identified by this method may be used to screen T cells from WN virus-exposed persons for cell-mediated response to WN virus or to develop diagnostic reagents for immunopathogenesis studies and epidemiologic surveillance.

  • West Nile Virus Infection in the Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus): A Model for West Nile Encephalitis PDF Version [PDF - 546 KB - 8 pages]
    S. Xiao et al.
       View Abstract

    This report describes a new hamster model for West Nile (WN) virus encephalitis. Following intraperitoneal inoculation of a New York isolate of WN virus, hamsters had moderate viremia of 5 to 6 days in duration, followed by the development of humoral antibodies. Encephalitic symptoms began 6 days after infection; about half the animals died between the seventh and 14th days. The appearance of viral antigen in the brain and neuronal degeneration also began on the sixth day. WN virus was cultured from the brains of convalescent hamsters up to 53 days after initial infection, suggesting that persistent virus infection occurs. Hamsters offer an inexpensive model for studying the pathogenesis and treatment of WN virus encephalitis.

  • West Nile Virus Infection in Mosquitoes, Birds, Horses, and Humans, Staten Island, New York, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 113 KB - 4 pages]
    V. L. Kulasekera et al.
       View Abstract

    West Nile (WN) virus transmission in the United States during 2000 was most intense on Staten Island, New York, where 10 neurologic illnesses among humans and 2 among horses occurred. WN virus was isolated from Aedes vexans, Culex pipiens, Cx. salinarius, Ochlerotatus triseriatus, and Psorophora ferox, and WN viral RNA was detected in Anopheles punctipennis. An elevated weekly minimum infection rate (MIR) for Cx. pipiens and increased dead bird density were present for 2 weeks before the first human illness occurred. Increasing mosquito MIRs and dead bird densities in an area may be indicators of an increasing risk for human infections. A transmission model is proposed involving Cx. pipiens and Cx. restuans as the primary enzootic and epizootic vectors among birds, Cx. salinarius as the primary bridge vector for humans, and Aedes/Ochlerotatus spp. as bridge vectors for equine infection.

  • Experimental Infection of Chickens as Candidate Sentinels for West Nile Virus PDF Version [PDF - 57 KB - 4 pages]
    S. A. Langevin et al.
       View Abstract

    We evaluated the susceptibility, duration and intensity of viremia, and serologic responses of chickens to West Nile (WN) virus (WNV-NY99) infection by needle, mosquito, or oral inoculation. None of 21 infected chickens developed clinical disease, and all these developed neutralizing antibodies. Although viremias were detectable in all but one chicken, the magnitude (mean peak viremia <104 PFU/mL) was deemed insufficient to infect vector mosquitoes. WNV-NY99 was detected in cloacal and/or throat swabs from 13 of these chickens, and direct transmission of WNV-NY99 between chickens occurred once (in 16 trials), from a needle-inoculated bird. Nine chickens that ingested WNV-NY99 failed to become infected. The domestic chickens in this study were susceptible to WN virus infection, developed detectable antibodies, survived infection, and with one exception failed to infect cage mates. These are all considered positive attributes of a sentinel species for WN virus surveillance programs.

  • Widespread West Nile Virus Activity, Eastern United States, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 111 KB - 6 pages]
    A. A. Marfin et al.
       View Abstract

    In 1999, the U.S. West Nile (WN) virus epidemic was preceded by widespread reports of avian deaths. In 2000, ArboNET, a cooperative WN virus surveillance system, was implemented to monitor the sentinel epizootic that precedes human infection. This report summarizes 2000 surveillance data, documents widespread virus activity in 2000, and demonstrates the utility of monitoring virus activity in animals to identify human risk for infection.

  • Exposure of Domestic Mammals to West Nile Virus during an Outbreak of Human Encephalitis, New York City, 1999 PDF Version [PDF - 43 KB - 3 pages]
    N. Komar et al.
       View Abstract

    We evaluated West Nile (WN) virus seroprevalence in healthy horses, dogs, and cats in New York City after an outbreak of human WN virus encephalitis in 1999. Two (3%) of 73 horses, 10 (5%) of 189 dogs, and none of 12 cats tested positive for WN virus- neutralizing antibodies. Domestic mammals should be evaluated as sentinels for local WN virus activity and predictors of the infection in humans.

  • Detection of North American West Nile Virus in Animal Tissue by a Reverse Transcription-Nested Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay PDF Version [PDF - 56 KB - 3 pages]
    D. J. Johnson et al.
       View Abstract

    A traditional single-stage reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) procedure is effective in determining West Nile (WN) virus in avian tissue and infected cell cultures. However, the procedure lacks the sensitivity to detect WN virus in equine tissue. We describe an RT-nested PCR (RT-nPCR) procedure that identifies the North American strain of WN virus directly in equine and avian tissues.

  • West Nile Virus in Overwintering Culex Mosquitoes, New York City, 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 45 KB - 3 pages]
    R. S. Nasci et al.
       View Abstract

    After the 1999 West Nile (WN) encephalitis outbreak in New York, 2,300 overwintering adult mosquitoes were tested for WN virus by cell culture and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. WN viral RNA and live virus were found in pools of Culex mosquitoes. Persistence in overwintering Cx. pipiens may be important in the maintenance of WN virus in the northeastern United States.

  • West Nile Virus Outbreak Among Horses in New York State, 1999 and 2000 PDF Version [PDF - 49 KB - 3 pages]
    S. C. Trock et al.
       View Abstract

    West Nile (WN) virus was identified in the Western Hemisphere in 1999. Along with human encephalitis cases, 20 equine cases of WN virus were detected in 1999 and 23 equine cases in 2000 in New York. During both years, the equine cases occurred after human cases in New York had been identified.

  • Isolation and Characterization of West Nile Virus from the Blood of Viremic Patients During the 2000 Outbreak in Israel PDF Version [PDF - 47 KB - 3 pages]
    M. Hindiyeh et al.
       View Abstract

    We report the isolation of West Nile (WN) virus from four patient serum samples submitted for diagnosis during an outbreak of WN fever in Israel in 2000. Sequencing and phylogenetic analysis revealed two lineages, one closely related to a 1999 New York isolate and the other to a 1999 Russian isolate.

  • Fatal Encephalitis and Myocarditis in Young Domestic Geese (Anser anser domesticus) Caused by West Nile Virus PDF Version [PDF - 466 KB - 3 pages]
    D. E. Swayne et al.
       View Abstract

    During 1999 and 2000, a disease outbreak of West Nile (WN) virus occurred in humans, horses, and wild and zoological birds in the northeastern USA. In our experiments, WN virus infection of young domestic geese (Anser anser domesticus) caused depression, weight loss, torticollis, opisthotonus, and death with accompanying encephalitis and myocarditis. Based on this experimental study and a field outbreak in Israel, WN virus is a disease threat to young goslings and viremia levels are potentially sufficient to infect mosquitoes and transmit WN virus to other animal species.

  • Comparative West Nile Virus Detection in Organs of Naturally Infected American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) PDF Version [PDF - 37 KB - 2 pages]
    N. A. Panella et al.
       View Abstract

    Widespread deaths of American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) were associated with the 1999 outbreak of West Nile (WN) virus in the New York City region. We compared six organs from 20 crow carcasses as targets for WN virus detection. Half the carcasses had at least one positive test result for WN virus infection. The brain was the most sensitive target organ; it was the only positive organ for three of the positive crows. The sensitivity of crow organs as targets for WN virus detection makes crow death useful for WN virus surveillance.

Volume 7, Number 4—August 2001 - Continued



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