WEST NILE VIRUS UPDATE

Although evening news reports of the West Nile virus (WNV) are decreasing, reported human cases are on the rise. Since 2002, there were more than 13,000 cases in the United States resulting in 502 deaths. In the year 2003 alone, there were 9,122 reported cases to the Center for Disease Control and 223 deaths in 46 states. Colorado had the most cases with 2,477.

Of the 9,122 cases reported in 2003, 6,251 cases (69 percent) were reported as West Nile Fever (milder disease), 2,707 cases (30 percent) were reported as West Nile meningitis or encephalitis (severe disease) and 164 cases (2 percent) were clinically unspecified.

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West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, and can infect people, horses, many types of birds, and some other animals. Most people who become infected with WNV will have either no symptoms or only mild ones. In some rare instances, the WNV infection can result in severe and sometimes fatal illnesses. The virus spread through the south and west throughout 2002, and in 2003 it made its way across the entire county. The only states to not have reported cases are Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

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