News Stories

West Nile Spreading Across the Country

A chicken in Grand Forks, North Dakota has tested positive for West Nile virus, and the disease has also arrived in glamorous Brentwood, California. The chicken belongs to one of the flocks the USDA has placed in various locations around the United States as an early warning for West Nile. Tracy Miller is one of the health workers who tests these flocks once a week to determine if they have been exposed to West Nile. On July 14, a chicken in one of the flocks tested positive, and a blue jay tested positive as well. She says, "While we didn't think there would be a season that we wouldn't find it, it's a reminder that it is here."

Horses are also being tested in North Dakota, and one of them recently tested positive. 281 samples from humans have been submitted to the health department, and all of these have tested negative.

In 2004, 20 human cases of West Nile were discovered in the US, causing two deaths. Symptoms of West Nile virus are fever, dizziness, fatigue, stiff neck and headaches that last two to three days. While healthy people can contract West Nile without even realizing they have it, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, which includes AIDS patients and those being treated for cancer with chemotherapy, are especially vulnerable.

While Grand Forks is a fairly ordinary American city, Brentwood is an expensive section of Los Angeles that is home to many famous people, including California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Is too much standing water being left out in birdbaths on those lovely, landscaped lawns, encouraging female mosquitoes to lay their eggs in them? Mosquito control supervisor Deborah Bass says, "A bird with it could have flown in from somewhere else. Mosquitoes travel less than two miles?Three-quarters of the new human emerging disease in the past two to three decades have been animal-borne."

Veterinarian Lonnie King agrees. She says, "In 2003, we woke up one morning and found out we had monkey-pox, West Nile virus and SARS in the United States, three diseases which had never existed here before."

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