Subject: West Nile virus and wild birds
Date: Aug 23 23:55:38 2002
From: Allyn Weaks - allyn. at

On 23/8/02, Joaw9 at wrote:

> I guess I must have been asleep when the media discussed the
> 'history' of the West Nile virus.

Sleeping through media drivel is a Good Thing. Our media is passing
out incorrect information (sic), such as that 1 out of 5 people get
seriously ill, and implying that it's easy to catch. Feh. The CDC is
a far better source: <>.
There's a map of world occurrence of WNV and related viruses at

Summary: WNV occurs over much of the old world, including europe. It's
a bird disease that's only incidentally transmitted to mammals. Of the
people who do get it, fewer than 1% develop serious symptoms (most have
none or mild flu-like ones); about 10% of those with serious symptoms
can die. [So the overall risk to humans is only a little higher than
that from serious allergic reactions to bee/wasp stings.] WNV is
closely related to St. Louis encephalitis (also a bird disease), and is
about as dangerous. St. Louis encephalitis occurs throughout the US;
it's our own native flavivirus. But that's not worthy of a media

WNV could cause trouble to some native bird populations that are
already stressed from other human activities. The USGS seems to be one
of the research repositories about this. One of their press releases
should serve as a starting point

One real risk of WNV is to our environment--mosquitos and other small
flies are an important part of it, and wholesale spraying, and/or
draining and destruction of yet more wetlands because of a minor
disease, is stupid. In WA, there are about 350 species of mosquitos.
Only a few of those species are capable of transmitting WNV, but I
wouldn't be surprised all of them will be targeted indiscriminately.
Allyn Weaks allyn at Seattle, WA Sunset zone 5
Pacific NW Native Wildlife Gardening:
"The benefit of even limited monopolies is too doubtful, to be opposed
to that of their general suppression." Thomas Jefferson