Overview of West Nile Virus in Big Horn Basin Avian Communities, An

Gerlach, Jordan
Goff, Russell
West Nile is a virus from the family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, which causes an infectious, noncontiguous, arthropod-borne disease (Johnson, 2001). It is not a single virus, but is a continuum of closely related viruses, whose pathogenicity to birds and other vertebrates varies significantly and is constantly changing. The purpose of this study was to find an estimated percentage of birds in the Big Horn basin that are infected with the virus. Birds were captured using a mist net at Northwest College in Powell WY, and at Coon's Age Farm in Belfry MT. Fecal samples and cloacal/fecal swabs were taken, and the birds were banded, measured, and released. The fecal samples and swabs were then tested using a RAMP reader. Many of these were too turbid to read properly, so a dilution protocol was produced using a spectrophotometer, aiming for a transmission of 80%. The testing of these new diluted samples revealed four that were positive with West Nile in three different species. House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), American Goldfinches (Spinus tristus), and House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) all showed the presence of the West Nile antibody through the autumn and winter. We are now seeking corroboration of virus presence via RT-PCR testing.
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