Since first discovered in the New York City area in 1999, West Nile virus (WNV) has become established over much of the continental United States and has been responsible for >10,000 cases of severe disease and 400 human fatalities, as well as thousands of fatal infections in horses. To develop appropriate surveillance and control strategies, the identification of which mosquito species are competent vectors and how various factors influence their ability to transmit this virus must be determined. Therefore, we evaluated numerous mosquito species for their ability to transmit WNV under laboratory conditions. This report contains data for several mosquito species not reported previously, as well as a summary of transmission data compiled from previously reported studies. Mosquitoes were allowed to feed on chickens infected with WNV isolated from a crow that died during the 1999 outbreak in New York City. These mosquitoes were tested ≈2 wk later to determine infection, dissemination, and transmission rates. All Culex species tested were competent vectors in the laboratory and varied from highly efficient vectors (e.g., Culex tarsalis Coquillett) to moderately efficient ones (e.g., Culex nigripalpus Theobald). Nearly all of the Culex species tested could serve as efficient enzootic or amplifying vectors for WNV. Several container-breeding Aedes and Ochlerotatus species were highly efficient vectors under laboratory conditions, but because of their feeding preferences, would probably not be involved in the maintenance of WNV in nature. However, they would be potential bridge vectors between the avian–Culex cycle and mammalian hosts. In contrast, most of the surface pool-breeding Aedes and Ochlerotatus species tested were relatively inefficient vectors under laboratory conditions and would probably not play a significant role in transmitting WNV in nature. In determining the potential for a mosquito species to become involved in transmitting WNV, it is necessary to consider not only its laboratory vector competence but also its abundance, host-feeding preference, involvement with other viruses with similar transmission cycles, and whether WNV has been isolated from this species under natural conditions.
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Vol. 42 • No. 1