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Emerg Infect Dis. 1999 Jan-Feb;5(1):135-42.

Long-term studies of hantavirus reservoir populations in the southwestern United States: a synthesis.

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.


A series of intensive, longitudinal, mark-recapture studies of hantavirus infection dynamics in reservoir populations in the southwestern United States indicates consistent patterns as well as important differences among sites and host-virus associations. All studies found a higher prevalence of infection in older (particularly male) mice; one study associated wounds with seropositivity. These findings are consistent with horizontal transmission and transmission through fighting between adult male rodents. Despite very low rodent densities at some sites, low-level hantavirus infection continued, perhaps because of persistent infection in a few long-lived rodents or periodic reintroduction of virus from neighboring populations. Prevalence of hantavirus antibody showed seasonal and multiyear patterns that suggested a delayed density-dependent relationship between prevalence and population density. Clear differences in population dynamics and patterns of infection among sites, sampling periods, and host species underscore the importance of replication and continuity of long-term reservoir studies. Nevertheless, the measurable associations between environmental variables, reservoir population density, rates of virus transmission, and prevalence of infection in host populations may improve our capacity to model processes influencing infection and predict increased risk for hantavirus transmission to humans.

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