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Contempo Updates | Clinician's Corner

West Nile Virus

Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH; Anthony A. Marfin, MD, MPH; Duane J. Gubler, ScD
JAMA. 2003;290(4):524-528. doi:10.1001/jama.290.4.524.
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West Nile virus (WNV) emerged from relative obscurity in 1999 when the first incursion of the virus into North America caused an outbreak of meningoencephalitis leading to 7 deaths in the New York City area.1 By 2002, human and veterinary surveillance documented geographic spread westward to the Pacific Coast. In the same year, WNV caused the largest arboviral meningoencephalitis outbreak ever recorded in North America.2

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Figure. States With Reported West Nile Virus Activity From 1999-2002, Reported as of May 2003
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In 2002, California reported only a single human case. All other states that reported human disease cases also reported West Nile virus infections in birds, horses, or mosquitoes.

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