Risks of West Nile Virus Infection in Taiwan

Yu-Chi Lin, Jhy-Wen Wu, Ding-Ping Liu

2010 Vol.26 NO.17

Correspondence Author: Yu-Chi Lin


West Nile virus (WNV), an arbovirus belonging to the Flaviviridae family, is transmitted by mosquitoes. WNV can cause infection in humans, birds, horses, and other mammals, and lead to vector-borne diseases including West Nile fever and encephalitis in humans. Birds are the primary reservoir and amplifying hosts, and the virus can be maintained in a bird-mosquito-bird cycle. Mosquitoes of the Culex species are the major vectors. Although the virus is widely distributed throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia, resulting in endemic diseases, it had not been detected in the United States before 1999. The first incursion of WNV into America had caused a severe outbreak of human encephalitis in New York City which made the public health to pay attention to the disease. To date, patients with West Nile fever have never been found in Taiwan, but 5 species of mosquitoes and 46 different birds are potential transmission vectors or reservoirs, according to the studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. Researches on the susceptibility to WNV among mosquitoes and birds in Taiwan are not available at present, but we should keep what had happened in America in mind and be vigilant about the potential of disease outbreak. In addition to routine vector control and elimination of the mosquito larval habitats, establishment of surveillance systems to detect the avian seroprevalence of WNV and the local virus activity are of great importance.