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Cardinals may protect Atlanta residents from West Nile virus

Cara J

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In Atlanta, Ga., West Nile virus (WNV) is rampant — but only in birds. Humans in the area are relatively free of the mosquito-borne illness, and they may have cardinals to thank, according to new research. Unlike American robins (Turdus migratorius), northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) rarely transmit WNV, even after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In a recent study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, researchers report that the cardinals may serve as a “sink” for the virus, bearing the bulk of mosquito bites just as West Nile season is ramping up. “In mid-July, the mosquito infection rate really skyrockets — which is the same time that the mosquitos, instead of feeding on robins, start to feed on cardinals,” said Rebecca Levine, an epidemiologist who conducted the research while she was a graduate student at Emory University. “The cardinals are absorbing these infectious bites.” In the eastern United States, WNV normally travels between mosquitos and certain species of songbirds such as robins. These birds serve as effective viral incubators, allowing the virus to multiply until there is enough of it to infect a mosquito. When other species such as humans are bitten by an infected mosquito, [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/cardinals-may-protect-atlanta-residents-from-west-nile-virus/

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