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West Nile Virus cases steadily increase.

West Nile Virus (WNV) is making a significant impact in the United States this year. By mid-August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the number of WNV cases had tripled in one week. "The numbers are starting to change very, very quickly," CDC Director Julie Gerberding told reporters in Atlanta. "Officials predict WNV will reach every state in the coming months." At the time of Gerberding's press conference, the virus had been diagnosed in 153 people from 16 states, compared to 112 cases in four states in mid-August last year. Colorado had been hardest hit with 111 cases. On August 5, a 67-year-old Boulder woman died only six days after feeling the onset of WNV symptoms, one of several deaths believed to have been caused by the mosquito-borne infection.

2002 saw the number of cases of West Nile encephalitis in the United States soar to 4,156 human cases and 284 deaths--the largest in the world. Prior to 1999, no cases of WNV had ever been reported in this country. With the encephalitis outbreak that year, there were 62 diagnosed human cases and seven deaths; in 2090, 21 human cases and two deaths; in 2001, 66 and nine.

"There is no way to prevent the virus from spreading or to predict which areas it will strike the hardest," says Dr. Sue Montgomery of the CDC. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center is working with CDC to learn the current geographic extent of WNV. Its disease scientists, by way of specialized biological containment facilities, provide diagnostic support and research results to public health departments utilizing dead wild birds as sentinels for detecting WNV. Wild-bird mortality is an accurate indicator of the extent of WNV and provides an early warning system for the emergence of the virus in new locations. The three-year study focuses on the probable dissemination of WNV along migratory corridors.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) also supports researchers investigating how WNV disseminates throughout the environment via an International Centers for Infectious Disease Research program in Mexico. The research studies whether migrating bird populations carry the virus from its presumed point of entrance into the Western Hemisphere (New York City) to points in Central and South America. Wild birds and chickens in the Yucatan Peninsula are also being examined for evidence of exposure to West Nile Virus. Birds might be year-round reservoirs for the viruses that cause encephalomyelitis and St. Louis encephalitis.
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Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:409
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