We examined seasonal patterns for entomological measures of risk for exposure to Culex vectors and West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) in relation to human WNV disease cases in a five-county area of northeastern Colorado during 2006–2007. Studies along habitat/ elevation gradients in 2006 showed that the seasonal activity period is shortened and peak numbers occur later in the summer for Culex tarsalis Coquillett females in foothills-montane areas > 1,600 m compared with plains areas <1,600 m in Colorado's Front Range. Studies in the plains of northeastern Colorado in 2007 showed that seasonal patterns of abundance for Cx. tarsalis and Culex pipiens L. females differed in that Cx. tarsalis reached peak abundance in early July (mean of 328.9 females per trap night for 18 plains sites), whereas the peak for Cx. pipiens did not occur until late August (mean of 16.4 females per trap night). During June-September in 2007, which was a year of intense WNV activity in Colorado with 578 reported WNV disease cases, we recorded WNV-infected Cx. tarsalis females from 16 of 18 sites in the plains. WNV infection rates in Cx. tarsalis females increased gradually from late June to peak in mid-August (overall maximum likelihood estimate for WNV infection rate of 8.29 per 1,000 females for the plains sites in mid-August). No WNV-infected Culex mosquitoes were recorded from sites > 1,600 m. The vector index for abundance of WNV-infected Cx. tarsalis females for the plains sites combined exceeded 0.50 from mid-July to mid-August, with at least one site exceeding 1.00 from early July to late August. Finally, we found that abundance of Cx. tarsalis females and the vector index for infected females were strongly associated with weekly numbers of WNV disease cases with onset 4–7 wk later (female abundance) or 1–2 wk later (vector index).
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Vol. 46 • No. 6