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The emergence of West Nile virus in North America: ecology, epidemiology, and surveillance.

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Arbovirus Diseases Branch, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, National Centers for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.


In late summer 1999, the first domestically acquired human cases of WN encephalitis were documented in the USA. Aggressive vector-control and public education efforts by state and local public health officials limited the extent of human involvement. The discovery of virus-infected, overwintering mosquitoes during the winter of 1999-2000, predicted renewed virus activity for the following spring, and prompted early season vector-control activities and disease surveillance efforts in NYC and the surrounding areas. These surveillance efforts were focused on identifying WN virus infections in birds and mosquitoes as predictors of the potential risk of transmission to humans. By the end of the 2000 mosquito-borne disease transmission season, WN virus activity had been documented as far north as the states of Vermont and New Hampshire, and as far south as the state of North Carolina. The ongoing impacts that WN virus will have on wildlife, domestic animal and human populations of the western hemisphere are not yet known. Plans are in place for public health officials and scientists to monitor the further expansion of WN virus with the establishment or enhancement of vector-borne disease surveillance and control programs throughout the eastern seaboard. The valuable lessons learned from the detection and response to the introduction of WN virus into NYC should prove useful if and when subsequent intrusions of new disease agents occur.

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