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Keywords:

  • West Nile Virus;
  • Western Hemisphere;
  • epidemiology;
  • surveillance;
  • public health;
  • trends

Summary

The observed patterns and variations in the ecology, epidemiology, distribution and prevalence of the West Nile Virus (WNV) in different areas of the Western Hemisphere make this pathogen of particular importance as a model for understanding the potential risk factors associated with emerging pathogens worldwide, particularly those involving zoonotic pathogens whose epidemiology involves the potential for vertical transmission in arthropod vector species, and horizontal and vertical transmission within and among vertebrate host species. Record numbers of human WNV cases were recorded in Canada during 2007, with >50% more cases than documented in any previous year. Although overall numbers of human infections recorded in the United States were not exceptionally high during 2007 relative to epidemic levels reported in 2002 and 2003, the state of Oklahoma reported that the highest-ever number of human WNV cases and the numbers of human cases recorded in Canada were 50% higher than previous record levels recorded in 2003. The record and near-record numbers of human WNV infections recorded in several regions of North America during 2007 have important implications for the future management and surveillance of WNV vectors and reservoirs in North America. The spatiotemporal distribution of WNV infections in humans and animals recorded during 2007 in North America and South America have important implications for the surveillance and management of public health threats from WNV in the Western Hemisphere. Serological surveys conducted in areas of intense WNV transmission in the United States have reported low prevalence of antibodies to WNV in human s populations, indicating that additional epidemic outbreaks of human disease from WNV can be expected in the future.