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Mexico Declares West Nile Virus Emergency

Date: 15-Jul-03
Country: MEXICO

The West Nile virus was discovered in Mexico on May 16 in a dead crow in Tabasco state, prompting the government to launch a campaign to vaccinate the state's equine population.

But Mexico's animal health authority said in the government's official gazette yesterday that the virus has since spread to the states of Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Veracruz, Tabasco, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.

"As soon as there is even one case in a state, it's enough to put the entire state on alert," said Javier Trujillo, who heads the Mexican government's animal health commission. "This is a situation that could impact the public health, so the public should know about it."

The United States has been fighting the virus for five years. Last year, the disease infected more than 4,000 people in 44 U.S. states and killed 284, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Trujillo said no human deaths from West Nile have been reported this year in Mexico, which shares a 2,000-mile border with the United States.

Mexico reported one death from West Nile virus in August last year, but said the man caught the disease during a vacation to the United States.

Yesterday, the government warned that Mexico provides an ideal breeding ground for the disease because it is home to a large number of wild birds.

Mosquitoes that bite infected birds and then bite people transmit West Nile, which can cause fatal inflammation of the brain in humans.

"The natural cycle of the disease occurs between wild birds and mosquitoes. However, as the number of birds rises, other types of mosquitoes can become infected and can be responsible for eventual transmission to humans or horses," the gazette said.

Among actions to combat West Nile, Mexican authorities have asked horse owners to vaccinate their animals and report any suspected cases of West Nile immediately.

The U.S. Agriculture Department reported that about a third of the 15,000 horses infected with the virus in 2002 died.

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