Use of Cervid Serosurveys to Monitor Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus Activity in Northern New England, United States, 2009-2017

Document Type


Publication Date



Lyme & Vector-borne Disease Laboratory, MaineHealth Insitute for Research

Journal Title

Journal of medical entomology

MeSH Headings

Animals; Deer; Encephalitis Virus, Eastern Equine (isolation & purification); Encephalomyelitis, Equine (epidemiology, veterinary); Maine (epidemiology); New Hampshire (epidemiology); Pilot Projects; Prevalence; Seroepidemiologic Studies; Vermont (epidemiology)


Vertebrate surveillance for eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) activity usually focuses on three types of vertebrates: horses, passerine birds, and sentinel chicken flocks. However, there is a variety of wild vertebrates that are exposed to EEEV infections and can be used to track EEEV activity. In 2009, we initiated a pilot study in northern New England, United States, to evaluate the effectiveness of using wild cervids (free-ranging white-tailed deer and moose) as spatial sentinels for EEEV activity. In Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont during 2009-2017, we collected blood samples from hunter-harvested cervids at tagging stations and obtained harvest location information from hunters. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention processed the samples for EEEV antibodies using plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNTs). We detected EEEV antibodies in 6 to 17% of cervid samples in the different states and mapped cervid EEEV seropositivity in northern New England. EEEV antibody-positive cervids were the first detections of EEEV activity in the state of Vermont, in northern Maine, and northern New Hampshire. Our key result was the detection of the antibodies in areas far outside the extent of documented wild bird, mosquito, human case, or veterinary case reports of EEEV activity in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. These findings showed that cervid (deer and moose) serosurveys can be used to characterize the geographic extent of EEEV activity, especially in areas with low EEEV activity or with little or no EEEV surveillance. Cervid EEEV serosurveys can be a useful tool for mapping EEEV activity in areas of North America in addition to northern New England.

First Page


Last Page