West Nile's North American spread described

Nov 03, 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: Full-annual-cycle models track migratory bird populations throughout the year

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pleurobot is salamander-like robot with lifelike motion

3 hours ago

A video showing "multimodal locomotion in a bioinspired robot" has been making the rounds, and the video demonstrates advances in robotics as scientific tools as well as potential robots for search and rescue ...

Recommended for you

Activating genes on demand

5 hours ago

When it comes to gene expression - the process by which our DNA provides the recipe used to direct the synthesis of proteins and other molecules that we need for development and survival - scientists have ...

Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

6 hours ago

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership that includes the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, have found a way ...

Deadly frog fungus dates back to 1880s, studies find

7 hours ago

A deadly fungus responsible for the extinction of more than 200 amphibian species worldwide has coexisted harmlessly with animals in Illinois and Korea for more than a century, a pair of studies have found.

User comments : 0

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.