West Nile virus (WNV) is now endemic in California, with annual transmission documented by the statewide surveillance system. Although much is known about the horizontal avian-mosquito transmission cycle, less is known about vertical transmission under field conditions, which may supplement virus amplification during summer and provide a mechanism to infect overwintering female mosquitoes during fall. The current study identified clusters of WNV-infected mosquitoes in Sacramento and Yolo Counties, CA, during late summer 2011 and tested field-captured ovipositing female mosquitoes and their progeny for WNV RNA to estimate the frequency of vertical transmission. Space-time clustering of WNV-positive Culex pipiens complex pools was detected in the northern Elk Grove area of Sacramento County between July 18 and September 18, 2011 (5.22 km radius;p<0.001 and RR=7.80). Vertical transmission by WNV-infected females to egg rafts was 50% and to larvae was 40%. The estimated minimal filial infection rate from WNV-positive, ovipositing females was 2.0 infected females/1,000. The potential contribution of vertical transmission to WNV maintenance and amplification are discussed.
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Vol. 37 • No. 2