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    Another Reason to Hate Mosquitoes


    Unfortunately, says Debriel, the symptoms are similar to another form of encephalitis caused by herpes and other viruses, so doctors needed a way to make an accurate diagnosis -- fast.

    During the New York City outbreak, Debriel and his colleagues developed a test for identifying viruses in the family that includes hepatitis C and the West Nile virus. "By analyzing samples of a patient's blood and [brain and spinal fluid], we can diagnose encephalitis due to [a virus from this family] within just a few hours. Rapid diagnosis of these patients is important because they must be isolated and treated quickly."

    Birds serve as carriers of the West Nile virus. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite an infected bird, and they then spread that infection by biting humans. Concerned that birds may be spreading the disease throughout the East Coast, the CDC has allocated $2.7 million to survey 17 states and two cities thought to be at highest risk of another outbreak.

    CDC officials recommend that people help stop mosquitoes from breeding through steps such as emptying stagnant water from flower pots and other containers, treating private swimming pools with appropriate chemicals, and removing other standing water that allows mosquitoes to grow to adulthood.

    Vital Information:

    • It's estimated that almost four million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus, which infects the liver, killing up to 10,000 people each year.
    • New laboratory research shows that hepatitis C can grow in mosquito cells, leading scientists to believe that the virus could possibly be spread by mosquitoes.
    • People at highest risk for getting hepatitis C are drug abusers, people who receive transfusions, patients who require kidney dialysis, and health care workers.
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