Mosquito bites may pass West Nile virus

West Nile virus (WNV) has now killed six people in California and the number of people with the virus has climbed to 249, according to an announcement yesterday by the California Department of Health Services. They also confirmed the virus has now been found in 48 of the state’s 51 counties.

As of Thursday, the Center for Disease Control, which says people 50 and over are at the most risk for severe cases, was reporting 703 human cases in the U.S. and 20 deaths.

“Even though West Nile virus has not been detected yet in all 58 counties, the evidence shows that it is widespread in California and we all need to be vigilant about avoiding mosquito bites,” said. State Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Joseph Jackson.

“In addition to personal protection, I encourage all Californians to eliminate sources of standing water in their yards that support mosquito breeding and avoid mosquito infested areas at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active,” he added.

Of the six Californians who have died from WNV infections, three were from Los Angeles County, two from San Bernardino County and one from Orange County, writes Senior Journal.

Des Moines County has joined a growing list of Iowa counties where state health officials have confirmed the presence of West Nile virus.

The Iowa Department of Public Health on Thursday released a statement in which it announced the addition of 10 counties to the list of locales where the mosquito–borne virus has been found.

In each of the counties just added to the list, West Nile was found in a bird carcass that was submitted for testing. A year ago, Iowa had 147 diagnosed cases of West Nile virus in humans, and six fatalities. So far this year, there are three human cases confirmed in the state, and one death.

Officials warned that with the first frost still weeks away, there is still plenty of time left in mosquito season, and urged Iowans to continue to take precautions when outdoors to prevent mosquito bites. The disease is spread when a mosquito bites a bird that is infected with West Nile, then bites a human, informs The Hawk Eye. Two Eastern Oregon horses are dead, reportedly from the West Nile virus, while four others are believed infected, a state official said Friday.

The West Nile virus likely is responsible for the deaths of two Malheur County horses, said Dr. Don Hansen, state veterinarian with the Animal Health and Identification Division of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Hansen said the state's preliminary results indicate six horses have been infected, including the two dead equines. However, state officials are awaiting separate confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Concrete results are expected next week, Hansen said.

According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, there are 275 reported U.S. equine infections currently. By comparison, in 2002, approximately 15,000 horses were confirmed infected in 40 states.

West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in September 1999, when several crows in New York City, as well as flamingos and pheasants at the Bronx Zoo, turned up dead. The NVSL located an unknown virus in the dead birds' tissue and sent it to the CDC. The CDC later determined it was West Nile virus and linked the virus to a New York encephalitis outbreak that killed seven people and infected more than 50 others.

Before its stateside appearance, West Nile virus was detected in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe, reports The Bulletin.

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