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Following an outbreak of Rift Valley fever (RVF) in south-eastern Mauritania during 1998, entomological investigations were conducted for 2 years in the affected parts of Senegal and Mauritania, spanning the Sénégal River basin. A total of 92 787 mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae), belonging to 10 genera and 41 species, were captured in light traps. In Senegal, Culex poicilipes (41%) and Mansonia uniformis (39%) were the most abundant species caught, whereas Aedes vexans (77%) and Cx. poicilipes (15%) predominated in Mauritania. RVF virus was isolated from 63 pools of Cx. poicilipes: 36 from Senegal in 1998 and 27 from Mauritania in 1999. These results are the first field evidence of Cx. poicilipes naturally infected with RVFV, and the first isolations of this virus from mosquitoes in Mauritania – the main West African epidemic and epizootic area. Additional arbovirus isolates comprised 25 strains of Bagaza (BAG) from Aedes fowleri, Culex neavei and Cx. poicilipes; 67 Sanar (ArD 66707) from Cx. poicilipes; 51 Wesselsbron (WSL) from Ae. vexans and 30 strains of West Nile (WN) from Ma. uniformis, showing differential specific virus–vector associations in the circulation activity of these five arboviruses.