Many assessments of host and vector competence for arboviruses focus on level and length of infectivity and ignore ecological mechanisms that contribute to virus survival. In this paper, mathematical models are used to compare local survival mechanisms for a range of scenarios, using Ross River virus as a case study. Ross River virus is an Australian arbovirus with many mosquito vectors and reservoir hosts. The mechanisms for maintaining long-term transmission of the virus vary between salt and freshwater mosquito vectors, and according to the availability of susceptible hosts. The models demonstrate that overwintering of virus in adult freshwater mosquitoes requires a large host population, while overwintering of virus in infected eggs of saltwater mosquitoes is an effective survival strategy when filial infection rates are high. The virus survives longer when both salt and freshwater mosquito species are included in the model than when only one mosquito species is present. When the marsupial host is replaced by a host with higher birth rate and shorter infectious period, the virus survived longer under all models. This suggests that birth rate can be a key factor when assessing the competence of reservoir hosts to maintain virus transmission. © 2004 Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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