Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on birds that are infected with the virus. The infected birds may or may not become ill. The birds are vectors, or intermediate carriers, of the virus that is important for the virus' life cycle and transmission cycle.
Among birds, crows are most vulnerable to infection by the West Nile virus. They are often killed by the virus. Although 17 species of birds have been found to be infected by the virus, the common dust-colored house sparrow is probably a principal bird reservoir for the virus in New York. Sparrows can harbor the virus for five days or more at levels high enough to infect mosquitoes that bite them.
The infected mosquitoes then transmit the virus when they bite and suck blood from people and animals and, in the process, inject the virus into their victim.
The incubation period (the time from infection to the development of symptoms) is five to 15 days.
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