Season Underway for West Nile Virus
West Nile virus warnings have become a rite of spring since the virus was first detected in 1999 in New York, where it killed seven people. The disease has been spreading across the country ever since. Mosquitoes transmit the virus through their bite, so residents of more than 40 states are being urged to wear mosquito repellant and long-sleeved clothing whenever possible in the summer, and to empty standing pools of water near their homes.
NPR's John Nielsen reports that heavy spring rains in the Eastern United States are now giving way to bumper crops of mosquitoes -- some of them carrying the virus. More than 4,000 people became ill with West Nile fever last year, and 285 people died from the sickness. This year's first official case was reported in South Carolina, where an elderly man became sick after being bitten by mosquitoes on a fishing trip. Scientists studying West Nile virus expect it to reach California by the end of summer.
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