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


Date of this Version

January 2005


Serosurveys were conducted to obtain flavivirus and West Nile virus (WNV) seroprevalence data from mammals. Sera from 513 small- and medium-sized mammals collected during late summer and fall 2003 from Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were screened for flavivirus-specific antibodies. Sera samples containing antibody to flaviviruses were screened for WNV-specific antibodies by epitope-blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and confirmed with plaque reduction neutralization tests. Prevalence of WNV antibodies among study sites ranged from 0% to 42.8% among the mammal communities sampled. High prevalence rates for WNV were noted among raccoons (100%, with a very small sample size, N 2), Virginia opossums (50.0%), fox squirrels (49.1%), and eastern gray squirrels (48.3%). The high WNV antibody prevalence noted for tree squirrels, the peri-domestic tendencies of several of these species, and their ease of observation could make these species useful sentinels for monitoring WNV activity within urban communities.