West Nile Outbreak in New York!
Posted on October 14, 1999
This fall, New York City has been hit with an unexpected threat. This one does not involve crime, drugs, or even traffic problem. This new enemy is so small that
you cannot even see it with the naked eye.
The threat is an encephalitis virus, which can cause potentially fatal swelling of brain tissue. Other symptoms include seizures, fever, headaches, and paralysis.
This specific strain is called West Nile virus and is named after the region in which it was first observed.
Close to 100 possible cases of West Nile virus have been reported, and several people have already died from infection. Normally, the West Nile virus is not fatal,
but it can be for younger children or older adults who have weaker immune systems.
The West Nile virus is also called an abrovirus, which is a virus carried by arthropods. In this case, the carrier is the common mosquito. The virus is actually found
mostly in birds, upon which the mosquitoes feed. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, then bites a human, the disease can be transmitted to the human.
Usually, mosquito-borne illnesses (like malaria and yellow fever) are only observed in warmer climates. Mild winters can help spread the disease to other locations
because the weather doesn't get cold enough to kill the virus and the mosquitoes.
The West Nile virus is related to the Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE) virus, which was first observed in Saint Louis in 1933. The two strains are so similar that it
was first suspected that SLE was responsible for the New York outbreak. Only after the West Nile virus was detected in some New York birds did doctors realized this was the true culprit.
While the West Nile virus causes less severe infections than SLE, this discovery is very significant because this is the first recorded case of West Nile virus showing up in the Western
To combat these spread of this disease, New York officials have started spraying the insecticide malathion throughout the city, concentrating on mosquito breeding
areas. They plan to keep this up until the first frost of the year, which will kill off the adult mosquitoes.
Use the Internet to research Saint Louis Encephalitis. Discover how the disease is spread and how it can be controlled. In a small group, develop a presentation
for the class that proposes a new way to combat SLE without using insecticide sprays.