Mosquitos create concerns for West Nile Virus return

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

Even though mosquito season started in May, reports of a the insect borne illness, known as the West Nile Virus, are just now popping up in the U.S.

It began with infected birds, who were bitten by mosquitoes, who then transferred the disease to humans.

In 1999, the U.S. saw its first outbreak of West Nile Virus in the New York City area. Since that time, thousands of Americans have been infected and hundreds have died, especially young children and those with prior illnesses.

But in 2006, the number of cases began to decrease. "That may be because the animals and the birds that have been susceptible to it may have died out or gotten immunity to it, so this wasn't that much of the virus running around," said one health expert.

Over the years, health authorities say, West Nile has more than likely been transferred to millions of healthy people in the U.S.; however, many have never shown symptoms and are now immune to it. "The vast majority of people that will be bitten by a mosquito that has West Nile, that person will develop antibodies and immunity to it, and only a very small minority of those will have clinical illness."

So, will the virus come back? Public health experts say it's hard to tell, but protecting yourself from mosquito bites is always a good idea -- even if West Nile is no longer a major health problem.

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