West Nile virus (WNV) was detected for the first time in Louisiana in the fall of 2001. Surveillance data collected from East Baton Rouge Parish in 2002 were examined to establish baseline data on WNV activity, to support the current design of disease surveillance programs, and to target vector control efforts in the parish. The first indications of WNV activity were from a dead Northern Cardinal collected in February and from a live male cardinal sampled on 14 March. In mosquito pools, WNV was first detected on June 11. The onset of the first human case and the first detection of WNV in sentinel chickens occurred concurrently on June 24. The number of reported human cases and minimum infection rates in mosquitoes peaked in July. WNV prevalence in wild birds increased in late August and was highest in December. WNV-positive wild birds and mosquito pools were detected an average of 31 and 59 days in advance of the onset date of reported human cases, respectively, within 5 km of the residence of a human case. Antibodies to WNV were detected in sera from 7 (Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and White-throated Sparrow) of the 42 wild bird species tested. Wild bird serology indicated WNV activity during the winter. Out of 18 mosquito species tested, the only species found positive for WNV was Culex quinquefasciatus, a result suggesting that this species was the primary epizootic/epidemic vector.
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Vol. 23 • No. 1