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West Nile Virus Spreading

Migrating birds carrying disease south and west

(HealthDay) -- The West Nile virus is spreading south and west, experts say, which is bad news for places like Central America and California.

According to a news-service article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the virus could reach those places as early as next year.

Scientists say it's no longer possible to think in terms of eradicating the virus. Rather, they're focusing efforts on controlling it. Using insect repellants, dressing in long pants and long-sleeved shirts and staying inside at dusk are the first line of defense. Using chemicals to control mosquito outbreaks is another option. For some animals, such as horses, vaccines are available. Experts say vaccines for people should be available within two years.

The virus is spread by infected mosquitoes. It has been reported in 20 states so far, mostly in the Northeast. But, as birds head south for the winter, they likely will take the virus to the Gulf Coast. And then, when the birds migrate next spring, the virus could crop up in midwestern and western states.

West Nile first made its appearance in North America in 1999, in the New York City area. So far this year, 15 human cases have been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with one death, according to the article.

To find out more about the spread of the West Nile virus, you can read this article from the Washington Post, published in the Seattle Times.

To find out more about mosquitoes and all the diseases they carry, you can read this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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