The West Nile virus, also known as Flavivirus Japanese Encephalitis Antigenic Complex, is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is carried by the mosquito in its salivary glands, then transmitted when it feeds. It has been found in birds, horses, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, rabbits, and humans. The virus was first found in a woman from the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937. In the decades to follow, several outbreaks occurred throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The first reported case in North America occurred in 1999. As of August 2002, the virus has been found in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

In humans, symptoms occur 3 to 5 days after the bite. It is usually not fatal, and often you just wait for it to run its course. However, if you suspect you may have it, see a medical professional immediately. Flu-like symptoms are often reported, as well as stiffness, disorientation, and rashes. The risks are more serious for people over 50 years old. The most severe symptom is encephalitis.

You should consider taking a few simple steps to protect yourself from this virus, especially if you live in an area experiencing an outbreak. Try to avoid being outside at dawn and dusk if it’s not necessary. Try to wear long sleeved shirts and pants so you’re not as exposed, wear insect repellant, and ensure window and door screens properly prevent mosquitoes from entering your house.

West Nile Virus (WNV) special powers of a supervillain

So far it is known to be able to infect 200 different species of at least 3 major classes of Vertebrates -Birds, Reptiles and Mammals - that is, it lacks host specificity.

The virus can be transmitted via methods other than a mosquito bite.

Infected life cycle
The virus can be directly transmitted from the adult mosquito to it's eggs. Newly hatched mosquitoes are born infected. This limits the usefulness of insecticides that only kill the adult population and not the aquatic larvae.

West Nile Virus can spread all year round, even in higher latitudes. There is a winter host, whose identity is uncertain (as of December 2002).So it is able to overwinter, each year the summer eruption of the epidemic occurs earlier.

WMV uses a diverse range of Mosquito carriers. Unlike most mosquito borne diseases, West Nile Virus doesn't limit itself a specific mosquito host. It appears to be carried by almost any genera of mosquito. Therefore West Nile Virus is not limited by a single vector's host range.

West Nile Virus has the potential to mix genetic material with a relative virus that causes St. Louis encephalitis. This could occur if an animal host was co-infected by both viral strains. The formation of a hybrid virus would spread a variant disease with unforseeable symptoms.

People worry mostly about diseases from an anthropocentric perspective. Alternatively some take a more positive view of epidemic diseases as one form of human population control. For example, that HIV is bio control for human overpopulation. WNV is killing people. But that is half the story. It has the potential to kill endangered species and other wildlife with varying levels of destructiveness. West Nile Virus spreads uncontrolled by barriers of species, diversity or distance.

Likely, as with many other pathogens, it will attenuate. For example, like the Myxoma virus and the rabbits humans set it as plague upon, the host populations will gain tolerance and survive, as did the rabbits. West Nile Virus is not Captain trips, But it has the potential to snuff out marginal species. A robust population needs two legs to stands on - numbers and genetic diversity. The virus shakes the rug of life. Attacking its backbone.

Inspiration and factual background
West Nile's Widening Toll Impact on North American Wildlife Far Worse Than on Humans By Rick Weiss Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday 28 December 2002; Page A01

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