West Nile Virus

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A disease called West Nile virus is spreading in the eastern United States. Public health officials in the state of Massachusetts found evidence of West Nile virus in two dead birds late last month. The virus also has been found in mosquitoes or dead birds in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

West Nile virus was first reported in the New York City area last year. The disease killed seven people and made sixty-two others sick. The virus also killed thousands of birds in the area. This was the first time the virus had been discovered in North America or South America.

West Nile virus was first discovered in the West Nile area of Uganda in Nineteen-Thirty-Seven. It has been reported in South Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia.

West Nile virus is carried by birds. The disease is then passed to mosquitoes when the insects bite birds that have the virus. People become infected when mosquitoes bite them. The disease cannot spread from person to person.

Most people who become infected with the virus develop infections similar to the disease influenza. They may have a high body temperature that disappears without treatment. A small percentage of people develop serious problems. West Nile virus can cause brain diseases such as encephalitis or meningitis. Signs can include high body temperature, headache and muscle weakness.

There is no medicine to prevent West Nile virus. Health experts say everyone should take steps to prevent mosquito bites. These include removing containers of water where mosquitoes could lay their eggs. Wearing clothing that covers the arms and legs. And using chemicals on the body to keep mosquitoes away.

New York City officials have approved the use of chemical sprays to kill mosquitoes in some areas. The discovery of a mosquito carrying West Nile virus forced the temporary closing of the world-famous Central Park. City officials closed the park one night last month to permit the spraying of pesticides to kill mosquitoes.

The World Health Organization says five-hundred-million people each year are infected with sicknesses carried by mosquitoes. These include dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever. More than two-million people die of these diseases. Many of them are young children.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English