West Nile virus: the season is upon us


West Nile virus (WNV) is an RNA viral pathogen of the Flaviviridae family that is genetically related to CNS viral pathogens such as dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis. The virus is maintained in the bird population and transmitted through a mosquito vector. When first described in 1940 (Smithburn et al. Am J Trop Med Hyg 1940;1:471-492) in a patient in Uganda, WNV infection produced a mild fever. But the virulence appeared to change in the 1990s with descriptions of severe WNV-associated neurological disease (Hubalek & Halouzka. Emerging Infect Dis 1999; 5:643-650).

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