Environmental risk factors for equine West Nile virus disease cases in Texas

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West Nile Virus (WNV) was first detected in the Texas equine population during June 2002. Infection has since spread rapidly across the state and become endemic in the equine population. Environmental risk factors associated with equine WNV attack rates in Texas counties during the period 2002 to 2004 were investigated. Equine WNV attack rates were smoothed using an empirical Bayesian model, because of the variability among county equine populations (range 46−9,517). Risk factors investigated included hydrological features (lakes, rivers, swamps, canals and river basins), land cover (tree, mosaic, shrub, herbaceous, cultivated and artificial), elevation, climate (rainfall and temperature), and reports of WNV-positive mosquito and wild bird samples. Estimated county equine WNV attack rate was best described by the number of lakes, presence of broadleaf deciduous forest, presence of cultivated areas, location within the Brazos River watershed, WNV-positive mosquito status and average temperature. An understanding of environmental factors that increase equine WNV disease risk can be used to design and target disease control programs.

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