West Nile virus (WNV) has remained epidemic in Kern County, CA, since its introduction in 2004 through 2007 when the human case annual incidence increased from 6–8 to 17 per 100,000, respectively. The 2007 increase in human infection was associated with contradicting surveillance indicators, including severe drought, warm spring but cool summer temperature anomalies, decreased rural and urban mosquito abundance but increased early season infection in urban Culex quinquefasciatus Say, moderate avian “herd immunity,” and declines in the catch of competent (western scrub-jay and house finch) and noncompetent (California quail and mourning dove) avian species. The decline in these noncompetent avian hosts may have increased contact with competent avian hosts and perhaps humans. The marked increase in home foreclosures and associated neglected swimming pools increased urban mosquito production sites, most likely contributing to the urban mosquito population and the WNV outbreak within Bakersfield. Coalescing five surveillance indicators into a risk assessment score measured each half month provided 2- to 6-wk early warning for emergency planning and was followed consistently by the onset of human cases after reaching epidemic conditions. St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) antibody was detected rarely in wild birds but not mosquitoes or sentinel chickens, indicating that previously infected birds were detected in Kern County, but SLEV reintroduction was not successful. In contrast, western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV) was detected during 3 of 5 yr in Culex tarsalis Coquillett, sentinel chickens, and wild birds, but failed to amplify to levels where tangential transmission was detected in Aedes mosquitoes or humans. A comparison of transmission patterns in Kern County to Coachella Valley in the southeastern desert of California showed the importance of mosquito phenology and spatial distribution, corvids, or other avian “super spreaders” and anthropogenic factors in WNV epidemiology.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1