Similar to West Nile virus (WNV), Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) has a history of intercontinental spread, and birds are important for the maintenance and transmission of both of these closely related viruses. We examined viremic and serologic responses of blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), with and without immunity to WNV, following experimental inoculation with two strains of JEV. Japanese encephalitis (JE) viremia was detected in only one of 16 (6.3%) WNV-immune birds, while all 16 nonimmune birds had detectable JE viremia. Two weeks after JEV inoculation, all birds without pre-existing WNV immunity had clearly distinguishable anti-JEV antibodies, while in all birds with pre-existing WNV immunity, antibodies to WNV and JEV were either indistinguishable or the anti-WNV antibody titers were significantly higher. As WNV is endemic throughout much of North America, WNV immunity among birds may dampen transmission while complicating the serologic diagnosis of JEV, should this pathogen be introduced to North America.
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Vol. 53 • No. 3