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Mayo Clin Proc. 2003 Sep;78(9):1137-43; quiz 1144.

West Nile virus: epidemiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and prevention.

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Division of Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. 55905, USA.


West Nile virus was recognized in the United States for the first time in 1999, when it caused an epidemic of encephalitis and meningitis in New York City, NY. Since then, the disease has been steadily moving westward, and human cases were recognized in 39 states and the District of Columbia in 2002. The infection is caused by a flavivirus that is transmitted from birds to humans through the bite of culicine mosquitoes. Most infections are mild, with symptoms primarily being fever, headache, and myalgias. People older than 50 years are at highest risk of severe disease, which may include encephalomyelitis. In 2002, 5 new modes of transmission were recognized: blood product transfusion, organ transplantation, breast-feeding, transplacental transmission, and occupational exposure in laboratory workers. The transmission season was long, with cases occurring into December in some parts of the United States. Currently, there is no specific drug treatment or vaccine against the infection, and avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to protect against the disease.

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