West Nile's North American spread described

November 3, 2008

The rapid spread of West Nile virus in North America over the past decade is likely to have long-lasting ecological consequences throughout the continent, according to an article in the November issue of BioScience. The mosquito-borne virus, which was little known before its emergence in New York in 1999, has since been found in all 48 contiguous states.

West Nile virus has killed hundreds of millions of birds and more than 1000 people in North America, and new outbreaks occur each year. Horses are also commonly infected. Though populations of house wrens and blue jays have returned to normal levels, most of the bird species that suffered large population declines, such as the American crow, American robin, Eastern bluebird, and Tufted titmouse, have yet to recover. The extent of mortality in birds of prey and other affected animals remains largely unknown. Changes in seed dispersal, insect abundances, and scavenging services resulting from the virus's effects on wildlife "are probable and demand attention," according the article's authors, Shannon L. LaDeau of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington, DC, and three others.

LaDeau and colleagues emphasize that research has yet to provide a clear picture of why species vary in their vulnerability to infection by the virus and in their probability of transmitting it, via mosquitoes, to other animals. For humans, living close to vegetation cover within a city appears to increase the risk of infection, but scientists still have much to learn about how temperature, precipitation, and changing landscapes interact in fostering outbreaks. Research on how these factors affect susceptible wildlife and mosquitoes could lead to better predictions and possibly public warnings and expanded mosquito abatement programs in vulnerable areas.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: What ever happened to West Nile?

Related Stories

What ever happened to West Nile?

November 2, 2015

Many people remember the arrival of West Nile in North America in 1999, if only because the initial outbreak killed not just wild crows but also exotic birds in the Bronx Zoo.

WHO worries Mexico flu deaths could mark pandemic

April 24, 2009

(AP) -- Mexican authorities said 60 people may have died from a swine flu virus in Mexico, and world health officials worry it could unleash a global flu epidemic. Mexico City closed schools across the metropolis Friday ...

North American birds in avian flu study

October 23, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've found the common wood duck and laughing gull are susceptible to the H5N1 avian influenza virus and could transmit the disease.

Recommended for you

Xbox gaming technology may improve X-ray precision

December 1, 2015

With the aim of producing high-quality X-rays with minimal radiation exposure, particularly in children, researchers have developed a new approach to imaging patients. Surprisingly, the new technology isn't a high-tech, high-dollar ...

Quantum dots used to convert infrared light to visible light

December 1, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at MIT has succeeded in creating a double film coating that is able to convert infrared light at modest intensities into visible light. In their paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, ...

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.