West Nile virus (genus Flavivirus) outbreaks and mortality events have been documented in both wild and captive avian species, including penguins. Serologic response to vaccination in avian species has varied and appears to be largely species dependent; however, Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) previously showed excellent rates of seroconversion. The goal of this study was to determine virus neutralization titers of 17 Humboldt penguin hens and their subsequent eggs, chicks, or both following vaccination with a killed West Nile vaccine. Chicks were also vaccinated at 56, 70, and 84 days old. Titers were measured from 10–346 days prior to lay as well as serially in seven chicks. Data collected showed positive rank correlation between maternal titers and yolk titers (ρ = 0.90, P < 0.0001, n = 14) but no association between booster vaccination and yolk titers. All seven chicks had detectable antibody on days 14 and 28, and antibody levels had increased (relative to day 56) in 3 of 6 chicks (50%; 95% confidence interval 14–86%) by day 112. Further information is provided on a suggested vaccination schedule for Humboldt penguin chicks based on a time-dependent decline in maternal antibody titers. Cell-mediated immunity and experimental challenge following vaccination have not yet been investigated in this species.
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