Wildlife are usually considered vectors, reservoirs or primary targets of infectious disease. A seldom considered epidemiological role which they can play involves their use as disease sentinels for the detection and monitoring of zoonoses. Their potential for such utilization has been demonstrated with the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopava intermedia) and St. Louis encephalitis in Texas and the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and California encephalitis in North America. The limitations and criteria which are important in the use of wild populations for “sentinel” duty are discussed.
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