Potential for water borne and invertebrate transmission of West Nile virus in the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
By: , and 



In November and December of 2013, a large mortality event involving 15,000 - 20,000 eared grebes (Podiceps nigricollis) occurred at the Great Salt Lake (GSL), UT. The onset of the outbreak in grebes was followed by a mortality event in > 86 bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). During the die-off, West Nile virus (WNV) was detected by RT-PCR or viral culture in carcasses of grebes and eagles submitted to the National Wildlife Health Center. However, no mosquito activity, the primary vector of WNV, was detected by the State of Utah's WNV monitoring program. Transmission of WNV has rarely been reported during the winter in North America in the absence of known mosquito activity; however, the size of this die-off, the habitat in which it occurred, and the species involved are unique. We experimentally investigated whether WNV could survive in water with a high saline content, as found at the GSL, and whether brine shrimp, the primary food of migrating eared grebes on the GSL, could have played a role in transmission of WNV to feeding birds. We found that WNV can survive up to 72 h at 4°C in water containing 30 — 150 ppt NaCl and brine shrimp, incubated with WNV in 30 ppt NaCl, may adsorb WNV to their cuticle and, through feeding, may infect epithelial cells of their gut. Both mechanisms may have potentiated the WNV die-off in migrating eared grebes on the GSL.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Potential for water borne and invertebrate transmission of West Nile virus in the Great Salt Lake, Utah
Series title Applied and Environmental Microbiology
DOI 10.1128/AEM.00705-17
Volume 83
Issue 14
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description e00705-17
Country United States
State Utah
Other Geospatial Great Salt Lake
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