West Nile virus (WNV) infection and associated disease and mortality have been documented in numerous North American raptor species. Information regarding clinical presentations and long-term outcomes of WNV-infected raptors is important in the clinic for the diagnosis, treatment, and assessment of prognosis, as well as for understanding potential population level effects on raptor species. Raptors of 22 species admitted to a rehabilitation clinic were tested, from 2002 to 2005, for previous and acute WNV infection, while comparing clinical syndromes, trauma, and rehabilitation outcomes. Forty-two percent of admitted raptors (132/314) had been infected with WNV, and these presented with a WNV-attributed clinical disease rate of 67.4% (89/132). West Nile virus-infected raptors were less likely to be released (79/132 [59.8%]) than negative raptors (138/182 [75.8%]) and more likely to die or be euthanized (47/132 [35.6%] for WNV-infected vs. 32/182 [17.6%] for WNV-negative). However, WNV-infected raptors with neurologic disease were no less likely to be released (29/53 [54.7%]) than those without neurologic disease (50/79 [63.3%]). Clinical WNV-associated syndromes varied among species. Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) were more likely to have neurologic signs, whereas American kestrels (Falco sparverius) and Swainson's hawks (Buteo swainsonii) were less likely to have neurologic signs. These results suggest that free-ranging raptors are frequently infected with WNV and that clinical syndromes differ among species. WNV has potentially devastating effects on raptors; however, rehabilitation of WNV-infected raptors can lead to positive outcomes, even for those having had severe neurologic disease.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1