West Nile virus has states scrambling for solutions

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 16, 2002

The West Nile Virus is continuing to increase its presence in the state.

A third case of the virus has been confirmed in the state, with the latest victim a 79-year-old woman from Dale County.

Others confirmed to have the virus were a 71-year-old man from Dale County, Fred Harzog, and a 47-year-old man from Dothan.

Governor Don Siegelman recently requested assistance from the Alabama National Guard in an attempt to alleviate the problem of mosquitoes.

And while various agencies in Alabama are starting to step up efforts to fight the threat of the virus, especially in terms of mosquitoes, other surrounding states are also continuing their efforts in regards to the virus.

On Wednesday in Mississippi, where 48 human cases have been confirmed, the state's governor, Ronnie Musgrove, declared an official state of emergency.

Mississippi has also begun a public education campaign called "Fight the Bite," which includes flying ads and the distribution of more than a million flyers.

According to some health officials, a similar campaign called the "Swat Team" will begin soon in Alabama once funding has been secured from the Centers for Disease Control. Public health officials said plans are also in the works to upgrade the state health laboratory.

In Louisiana, where the virus has wreaked the most havoc, with at least seven deaths confirmed, Air Force Reserve units are expected to begin spraying mosquito insecticide by the end of the week.

A scientist with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta said Thursday that about 1,000 people could become ill with the virus before the epidemic is halted this year by the onset of cooler temperatures.

"We're still on the upslope of the epidemic curve," said Dr. Lyle Petersen.

Petersen added, however, that more aggressive and successful spraying for mosquitoes might keep that number much lower.

As of Wednesday the CDC had reported 156 cases nationwide and Illinois reported an additional three cases Thursday not yet added to the national total. From 1999 through 2001, the CDC confirmed just 149 cases total of human cases of the virus.