Role of California (Callipepla californica) and Gambel's (Callipepla gambelii) quail in the ecology of mosquito-borne encephalitis viruses in California, USA

William Reisen, Vincent M. Martinez, Ying Fang, Sandra Garcia, Siranoosh Ashtari, Sarah S. Wheeler, Brian D. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Gambel's and California quail were infected repeatedly whenever western equine encephalomyelitis virus (WEEV), St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV), and (WNV) West Nile virus were active during summer in California. The timing of virus appearance and quail infection coincided well with the appearance of chicks in nature, leading us to hypothesize that large coveys containing these non-immune birds could be important in focal virus amplification in rural settings. However, experimental infection studies with chicks, juveniles, and adults of both quail species using sympatric strains of WEEV, SLEV, and WNV indicated that only immature birds were competent hosts for WEEV, producing viremias sufficiently elevated to efficiently infect Culex tarsalis mosquitoes. Quail were less competent hosts for WNV and were incompetent for SLEV. Large populations of quail that frequently are infected with SLEV or WNV, but produce low to moderate viremias, may serve as dead end hosts for these viruses. Due to their abundance and repeated infection, these birds may attenuate virus amplification in rural areas of California and possibly could be one reason why WNV epidemics seem to occur more frequently in urban and periurban than in rural landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-260
Number of pages13
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006



  • California
  • California quail
  • Gambel's quail
  • St. Louis encephalitis virus
  • West Nile virus
  • Western equine encephalomyelitis virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology

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