Final figures from the past summer season show a dropoff in mosquito-borne illness from last year. The state public health department’s Kevin Teale says it wasn’t unexpected.During the 2004 West Nile season, we recorded 22 human cases of West Nile illness compared to 147 in 2003. Two people died from the disease. There were two confirmed cases of LaCrosse encephalitis, a similar virus that’s been around for years and is also spread by the bite of blood-sucking mosquitoes. Teale says it’s a typical pattern to see West Nile first appear in a state and increase rapidly the first few years it’s present. Teale says what we’ve seen in states that have cases of West Nile is that the second and third years seem to have the most cases, and there are still cases after that but in very small numbers. Since it’s still relatively new to the US and the region, they’re still not sure what we might see in the future. The disease hit animals hard when it first appeared and Teale says it’s tough to tell whether that pattern resembles the rate of infection among human victims. It’s certainly had an impact on birds, according to Teale. As far as horses, he says now there’s a vaccine and many owners have gotten that vaccine for their animals, so though numbers of cases dropped a lot this year among horses it could be due to their vaccination.
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