To determine which arthropods should be targeted for control should Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) be detected in North America, we evaluated Culex erraticus (Dyar and Knab), Culex erythrothorax Dyar, Culex nigripalpus Theobald, Culex pipiens L., Culex quinquefasciatus Say, Culex tarsalis Coquillett, Aedes dorsalis (Wiedemann), Aedes vexans (Meigen), Anopheles quadrimaculatus Say, and Culicoides sonorensis Wirth and Jones from the western, midwestern, and southern United States for their ability to transmit RVFV. Female mosquitoes were allowed to feed on adult hamsters inoculated with RVFV, after which engorged mosquitoes were incubated for 7–21 d at 26°C, then allowed to refeed on susceptible hamsters, and tested to determine infection, dissemination, and transmission rates. Other specimens were inoculated intrathoracically, held for 7 d, and then allowed to feed on a susceptible hamster to check for a salivary gland barrier. When exposed to hamsters with viremias ≥108.8 plaque-forming units/ml blood, Cx. tarsalis transmitted RVFV efficiently (infection rate = 93%, dissemination rate = 56%, and estimated transmission rate = 52%). In contrast, when exposed to the same virus dose, none of the other species tested transmitted RVFV efficiently. Estimated transmission rates for Cx. erythrothorax, Cx. pipiens, Cx. erraticus, and Ae. dorsalis were 10, 8, 4, and 2%, respectively, and for the remaining species were ≤1%. With the exception of Cx. tarsalis and Cx. pipiens, all species tested had moderate to major salivary gland barriers. None of the C. sonorensis became infected and none of the An. quadrimaculatus tested transmitted RVFV by bite, even after intrathoracic inoculation, indicating that these species would not be competent vectors of RVFV. Although Ae. vexans from Florida and Louisiana were relatively efficient vectors of RVFV, specimens of this species captured in Colorado or California were virtually incompetent, illustrating the need to evaluate local population for their ability to transmit a pathogen. In addition to laboratory vector competence, factors such as seasonal density, host feeding preference, longevity, and foraging behavior should be considered when determining the potential role that these species could play in RVFV transmission.
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Vol. 47 • No. 5