WindStar Wildlife Institute
This pamphlet summarizes the latest information on the
virus at the time of writing. As with any medical subject,
however, information changes frequently, based on the
results of new research or changes in the virus itself.
With this in mind, you are encouraged to read this
pamphlet, but also to visit the web sites which are
listed, or to call your local Health Department,
in order to get the very latest updates.
Usually when we complain about
"problem wildlife," we're talking
about annoyances: deer nibbling
our shrubs; squirrels devouring our
tulip bulbs; raccoons raiding our
trash cans.
Generally we try advice from
friends and authorities, and either
solve the problem or come to some
kind of tolerance and
Sometimes, however, much more
serious concerns also tie into our
love of wild creatures. In recent
years, one of the most frightening
of these has been the spread of
West Nile Virus (WNV).
Learning that it is present in
wild bird populations, and now
appears to be spreading to
mammals, can make us wonder if
our fondness for wildlife and our
attempts to enhance wildlife
habitat are actually putting our
own health and that of our
families at risk.
Somewhat surprisingly, we don't
know the exact origin of the
specific virus that has reached
the United States, although WNV
is fairly common in Africa, West
Asia, and the Middle East. The
first outbreak in this country in
New York City in 1999 seems to be
related to a strain that appeared
in Israel the previous year.
At this point, experts consider
it to now be permanently
established in the Western
Hemisphere and, depending on
the local climate, it can be
overwintered or transmitted all
year around.
As Paul Epstein of Harvard
Medical School's Center for Health
and the Global Environment
explained in
Scientific American
global warming has contributed to
conditions that favor diseases like
WNV. Mild winters allow its survival
into the spring, giving it an earlier
start in the year, while drought
kills insect predators such as
ladybugs and lacewings.
Drought also causes birds and
mosquitoes to congregate in
larger numbers at smaller and
fewer water sources, increasing
the likelihood of spreading the
virus, while higher temperatures
cause an increase in mosquito
West Nile Virus
and Wildlife

West Nile Virus:

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