Seasonal Patterns in Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus Antibody in Songbirds in Southern Maine

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


The intent of this study was to assess passerine eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEv) seroprevalence during the breeding season in southern Maine by testing songbird species identified in the literature as amplifying hosts of this virus. In 2013 and 2014, we collected serum samples from songbirds at a mainland site and an offshore island migratory stopover site, and screened samples for EEEv antibodies using plaque reduction neutralization tests. We compared seasonal changes in EEEv antibody seroprevalence in young (hatched in year of capture) and adult birds at the mainland site, and also compared early season seroprevalence in mainland versus offshore adult birds. EEEv seroprevalence did not differ significantly between years at either site. During the early season (May), EEEv antibody seroprevalence was substantially lower (9.6%) in the island migrant adults than in mainland adults (42.9%), 2013–2014. On the mainland, EEEv antibody seroprevalence in young birds increased from 12.9% in midseason (June–August) to 45.6% in late season (September/October), 2013–2014. Seroprevalence in adult birds did not differ between seasons (48.8% vs. 53.3%). EEEv activity in Maine has increased in the past decade as measured by increased virus detection in mosquitoes and veterinary cases. High EEEv seroprevalence in young birds—as compared to that of young birds in other studies—corresponded with two consecutive active EEEv years in Maine. We suggest that young, locally hatched songbirds be sampled as a part of long-term EEEv surveillance, and provide a list of suggested species to sample, including EEEv “superspreaders.”

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Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases





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