SEVERAL OUTBREAKS OF THE WEST NILE VIRUS, which causes fever or severe neurological symptoms affecting the brain, have ravaged the US since 1999.
The virus, which was first recorded in the 1930s, believed to have originated in Egypt, is now spreading globally to Western Europe and North America, says Ella Mendelson of Tel Aviv University’s School of Public Health, according to the university’s statement. Researchers are not certain as to how the virus migrated here — and they don’t know how, or where, it will strike next.
Mendelson and her fellow researchers at the Central Virology Lab in Israel are geographically tracking the virus, recording where it originates, the genetic types of the virus that are circulated, and the dynamics of infection, hoping that by providing more information on the dynamics and mobility of the virus, it could also solve the mystery of how the virus migrates.
The West Nile virus is a type of virus known as a flavivirus. Researchers believe West Nile virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person. Mosquitos carry the highest amounts of virus in the early fall, which is why the rate of the disease increases in late August to early September. The risk of disease decreases as the weather becomes colder and mosquitos die off. Although many people are bitten by mosquitos that carry West Nile virus, a few people develop severe disease, but most do not know they’ve been exposed.