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Keywords:

  • West Nile virus;
  • epidemiology;
  • case–control;
  • American crow;
  • risk factors

Summary

West Nile virus (WNV) is transmitted between avian hosts in enzootic cycles by a mosquito vector. The virus has significant disease effects on humans and equines when it bridges into an epizootic cycle. As the initial epidemic of WNV in 1999, perennial outbreaks in New York State suggest the local establishment of natural foci with perpetuation of the virus among susceptible hosts rather than reintroduction of the virus. The factors that play a role in the perpetuation of the virus are not fully understood. American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are known to be highly susceptible to infection with the virus. We investigate the factors that put crows at risk of infection in Tompkins County, New York during the period of 2000–2008 in a case–control study. Cases were crow carcasses that were found dead and tested positive for WNV using real time reverse transcription or VecTest®. Data on putative risk factors were collected and assessed for significance of association with the presence of WNV using logistic regression analysis to evaluate the significance of each factor while simultaneously controlling for the effect of others. The risk of a crow carcass testing WNV positive varied with age, season of the year and ecological area where the carcass was found. Crows that were more than 1-year-old were four times more likely to be WNV positive in comparison to birds that were less than 1 year of age. It was three times more likely to find WNV positive carcasses in residential areas in comparison to rural areas. The risk of testing WNV positive did not vary by sex of the crow carcasses.