Introduction of the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) in the United States - a qualitative risk assessment.
The purpose of this risk assessment (RA) was to qualitatively estimate the risk of emergence of the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) in the United States (US). We followed the framework for RA of emerging vector-borne livestock diseases (de Vos et al. 2011), which consists of a structured questionnaire, whose answers to questions can be delivered in risk categories, descriptive statements, or yes or no type of answers, being supported by the literature. The most likely pathways of introduction of JEV identified were: (a) entry through infected vectors (by aircraft, cargo ships, tires, or wind); (b) import of infected viremic animals; (c) entry of viremic migratory birds; (d) import of infected biological materials; (e) import of infected animal products; (f) entry of infected humans; and (g) import/production of contaminated biological material (e.g., vaccines). From these pathways, the probability of introduction of JEV through infected adult mosquitoes via aircraft was considered very high and via ships/containers was deemed low to moderate. The probability of introduction via other pathways or modes of entry (vector eggs or larvae, hosts, and vaccines) was considered negligible. The probability of transmission of JEV was variable, ranging from low to high (in the presence of both competent vectors and hosts), depending on the area of introduction within the US. Lastly, the probability of establishment of JEV in the continental US was considered negligible. For that reason, we stopped the risk assessment at this point of the framework. This RA provides important information regarding the elements that contribute to the risk associated with the introduction of JEV in the US. This RA also indicates that infected mosquitoes transported in aircraft (and cargo ships) are the most likely pathway of JEV entry and therefore, mitigation strategies should be directed towards this pathway.