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Statewide drop in the number of cases of the West Nile virus

by editor2
August 19th, 2006

California has seen significantly fewer cases of the West Nile virus as humans and animals develop immunity, and health experts say they’re hopeful the trend will continue.

So far this year, 68 cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been recorded, with one death in Butte County announced this week. Last year there were 935 human cases, including 28 deaths.

In Los Angeles County, West Nile cases have declined for the second straight year. In 2006 there have been only two confirmed cases, compared to 43 cases and no fatalities last year. In 2004, there was a high of 309 human cases, with 14 deaths.

“What’s occurring here now is the same thing that’s occurring in other areas: You have exposed a virus to a naive population and have had a large die-off,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county’s health officer. “Those who survived are developing antibodies to fight off the virus. It’s Darwin 2006.”

San Bernardino and Orange counties have also reported a dramatic drop in infections. San Bernardino County reported 35 human cases in 2005, down from 197 the previous year. Orange County reported 17 cases in 2005, down from 64 the prior year, and one case so far this year.

State health officials said the number of cases is expected to remain low even through West Nile’s peak season in August and September.

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