West Nile

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West Nile was long considered a serious problem only for the elderly and frail, and more of a nuisance illness for everyone else. Now a surprising number of patients shows the virus is more threatening than widely believed. New research finds that even so-called mild cases of West Nile fever can impair people for weeks or months.

It's sobering news as the nation gears up for a seventh season of the mosquito-borne virus.

West Nile virus had stricken abroad for decades, from the tip of Africa up to Europe and throughout Asia, before it appeared in New York City in 1999 and began an inexorable march across this country. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have counted more than 16-thousand-600 human cases and 654 deaths.

Alabama had 14 human cases of West Nile in 2004.