West Nile virus prompts worries

Cases of West Nile Virus typically start appearing toward the end of the summer, when Northern Illinois sees its warmest temperatures, said Kane County Health Department spokesman Tom Schlueter.

"We’re now getting into the hottest weather of the year, so now’s the time to start taking precautions," Schlueter said.

So far this year, cases of the mosquito-born illness in Illinois have appeared earlier and more frequently than last year.

At this time in 2006, only one Illinois resident was confirmed to have the virus, compared to six people throughout the state so far in 2007. The state health department reported this year’s first case on June 15 in DuPage County, six weeks earlier than in 2006, chicagosuburbannews.com reports.

According to AP, virus hunters swathed in protective gear plan to enter a lead and gold mine in a remote part of western Uganda this week to search for bats they believe may be the source of the latest outbreak of a deadly Ebola-like disease.

Wearing gowns, boots, masks, goggles and leather gloves, the medical investigators will attempt to catch 1,000 bats to be transported to a nearby mobile laboratory, where they will take blood samples to look for antibodies of the Marburg virus, before killing the animals and removing their livers and spleens.

The virus, which is native to parts of Africa and Asia, was discovered in New York in 1999. Since that time, it has slowly spread across the continental United States. Last year, nearly a dozen birds, including some found in Snohomish County, tested positive for the virus, and there were three confirmed human cases in the state. That leads health officials to believe it's finally here.

The virus is an avian disease that mosquitoes get when biting birds. Horses and humans are most impacted by the virus, although a vaccine now exists for horses.

Of human cases, those most at risk are the elderly or people with immune-deficiency disorders. Most cases are undetected and cause little more than flu-like symptoms, but severe cases can result in death, seattletimes reports.

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