U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

February 2007


Published in Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 76(1), 2007, pp. 173–179.


Sera from 936 mammalian mesopredators (Virginia opossums, gray foxes, striped skunks, hooded skunks, raccoons, a bobcat, and a red fox) were collected during 2003 and 2004 in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wyoming and screened for flavivirus-specific antibodies by an epitope-blocking enzyme-linked immunosobent assay (blocking ELISA). Serum samples positive for antibodies against flaviviruses were screened for West Nile virus (WNV)– specific antibodies by blocking ELISA and selectively confirmed with plaque-reduction neutralization tests. High prevalence rates were observed in raccoons (45.6%) and striped skunks (62.9%). The high WNV antibody prevalence noted in mesopredators, their peridomestic tendencies, and their overall pervasiveness make these species potentially useful sentinels for monitoring flaviviruses in defined areas.