Wild-caught, immature black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) were inoculated with eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), or western equine encephalitis (WEE) virus. Susceptibility, duration and titer of viremia, and antibody response to these arboviruses were determined. Birds from all inoculated groups became viremic. Higher virus titers occurred in the EEE group but overall mean titers were not significantly different among experimental groups. All birds inoculated with EEE and SLE viruses developed antibodies, and six of seven ducks receiving WEE virus were seropositive. All seropositive ducks had antibodies for at least 59 days, when the study was terminated. The EEE group had significantly more seropositive ducks during more days than the WEE and SLE groups. Geometric mean antibody titers were significantly smaller in the WEE group when compared to the EEE and SLE groups. Control ducks did not develop viremia or antibodies. Gross and histopathologic lesions compatible with viral encephalitis were absent in all of nine ducks necropsied. Black-bellied whistling ducks can develop low and short-term levels of viremia sufficient to infect mosquitoes, but probably cannot contribute significantly to the transmission of EEE and SLE. They may serve as good indicators of virus activity.
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