Spatial and temporal distribution of west Nile virus in horses in Israel (1997-2013)-From endemic to epidemics

Karin Aharonson-Raz*, Anat Lichter-Peled, Shlomit Tal, Boris Gelman, Daniel Cohen, Eyal Klement, Amir Steinman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

With the rapid global spread of West Nile virus (WNV) and the endemic state it has acquired in new geographical areas, we hereby bring a thorough serological investigation of WNV in horses in a longstanding endemic region, such as Israel. This study evaluates the environmental and demographic risk factors for WNV infection in horses and suggests possible factors associated with the transition from endemic to epidemic state. West Nile virus seroprevalence in horses in Israel was determined throughout a period of more than a decade, before (1997) and after (2002 and 2013) the massive West Nile fever outbreak in humans and horses in 2000. An increase in seroprevalence was observed, from 39% (113/290) in 1997 to 66.1% (547/827) in 2002 and 85.5% (153/179) in 2013, with persistent significantly higher seroprevalence in horses situated along the Great Rift Valley (GRV) area, the major birds' migration route in Israel. Demographic risk factors included age and breed of the horse. Significantly lower spring precipitation was observed during years with increased human incidence rate that occurred between 1997-2007. Hence, we suggest referring to Israel as two WNV distinct epidemiological regions; an endemic region along the birds' migration route (GRV) and the rest of the country which perhaps suffers from cyclic epidemics. In addition, weather conditions, such as periods of spring drought, might be associated with the transition from endemic state to epidemic state of WNV.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0113149
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 17 Nov 2014

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