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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2010 Feb;82(2):337-43. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0506.

Avian communal roosts as amplification foci for West Nile virus in urban areas in northeastern United States.

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Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, USA.


West Nile virus (WNV) perpetuates in an enzootic transmission cycle involving Culex mosquitoes and virus-competent avian hosts. In the northeastern United States, the enzootic vectors, Cx. pipiens and Cx. restuans, feed preferentially on American robins (Turdus migratorius), suggesting a key role for this bird species in the WNV transmission cycle. We examined the role of American robin communal roosts as virus amplification foci in greater New Haven, Connecticut. Robin communal roosts were located by radio tracking. After mid-August, when most robins were using the roosts, Cx. pipiens and Cx. restuans fed often on robins and were significantly more infected with WNV at communal roosts than at non-roosting sites. We also identified 6.4% human-derived blood meals in Aedes vexans in communal roosts. Our results indicate that communal roosts act as late-season amplification foci facilitating transmission to humans because of high infection rates, high abundance, and feeding patterns of enzootic and bridge vectors.

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