West Nile Virus Confirmed in Louisiana

The first presence of West Nile virus (WNV) in Louisiana has been confirmed by the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine’s Arbovirus Testing Laboratory (ATL) and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The ATL is part of the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, which is funded by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

The ATL participates in a disease surveillance program funded by the CDC to test for the presence of viruses that cause encephalitis. The lab is contracted to test 200 birds, and it is in its second season of testing. Under one contract, the lab tests dead crows and blue jays for the presence of WNV. Through its second contract, the lab works with Louisiana Mosquito Control to monitor eastern equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis.

The lab received a blue jay from Kenner, La. as part of its surveillance contract. The ATL utilized cutting-edge technology to evaluate tissue samples from the kidney. A molecular assay was conducted to identify genetic materials (RNA) specific to WNV. The assay proved positive for the virus, and further genetic sequencing tests confirmed the presence of West Nile Virus Strain New York 99 in the blue jay.The CDC confirmed LSU’s test results August 14.

"This is an exciting time in our laboratory because we have the capabilities and technologies available through molecular diagnostics, including genetic sequencing, to quickly confirm diseases such as WNV. Molecular diagnostics are more advanced than conventional tests, which gives the advantage of a rapid turnaround time, and they are very sensitive and specific," explained Dr. Alma Roy, principal investigator of the ATL.

"We are doing this surveillance testing to protect the health of man and animal. This program will prove crucial in controlling arthropod-borne diseases and gives us an important link between animal and public health," said Roy.

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