Adult house finches from Kern County were inoculated subcutaneously with recent sympatric and allopatric isolates of western equine encephalomyelitis and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) viruses made from Culex tarsalis Coquillett collected in Kern County and Coachella Valley, CA, respectively. Virulence, as measured by the amplitude of the viremia response during days 1 and 2 postinfection, varied significantly among strains, but independently of geographic origin. The intensity of the immune response, as measured by an enzyme immunoassay and a plaque reduction neutralization test, seemed to be independent of virulence, especially for SLE where some strains failed to produce a detectable viremia but elicited a strong antibody response. Our preliminary data indicated that strain virulence may be associated with the level of enzootic activity during the year of isolation.
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Vol. 37 • No. 2