Avian hosts for West Nile Virus in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, 2002

Nicholas Komar
Nicholas A. Panella
Stanley A. Langevin
Aaron C. Brault
Manuel Amador
Eric Edwards
Jennifer C. Owen, University of Southern Mississippi


West Nile virus (WNV) infections in free-ranging birds were studied in Slidell, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, after a human encephalitis outbreak peaked there in July 2002. Seroprevalence in resident, free-ranging wild birds in one suburban site was 25% and 24% in August and October, respectively, indicating that most transmission had ceased by early August. Mortality rates, seroprevalence rates, host competence, and crude population estimates were used in mathematical models to predict actual infection rates, population impacts, and importance as amplifying hosts for several common passerine birds. Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and house sparrow (Passer domesticus) were the principal amplifying hosts, but blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) also contributed. The blue jay population was reduced by an estimated 47%. A variety of passerine bird species combined to play an important role as amplifying hosts in the WNV transmission cycle.