West Nile still a worry - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

West Nile still a worry

June 6, 2005

by Michelle Franzen

As summer nears, the centers for disease control and prevention are warning Americans to guard against west Nile virus by using repellents. It has been six years since the virus surfaced in the United States.

A new study released today suggests the mosquito-bourne disease may be spreading in new and faster ways.

Summer is almost here and that means mosquito bites and another season of west Nile virus. The disease is transmitted to humans and animals by mosquitoes that feed on birds infected with the virus. Symptoms can range from headaches and fever to severe complications that can lead to meningitis.

But now researchers at the University of Texas say a new study using mice showed mosquitoes were able to pass on the virus to each other in a much faster way through other animals, not just birds. Researchers called the findings a start in understanding this unpredictable disease.

West Nile virus first appeared in New York City in 1999. Since then, the disease has spread across the country at a rapid rate. The CDC has recorded more than 16,000 human cases nationwide. New York city and other communities around the country have stepped up aggressive programs that include spraying mosquito-breeding areas.

But researchers have yet to come up with a vaccine. The CDC said the best weapon against being infected with west Nile virus is to use repellents that contain DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Last year, California had the highest number of cases with more than 700 people infected. Health experts once thought the virus affected the elderly and frail, but doctors are starting to see more cases from people under 50 years old and warn younger people are also at risk of being infected.

See what the CDC has to say about West Nile.

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