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Monday, 24 April, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
NYC targets deadly mosquitoes
West Nile Virus is spread by mosquito
West Nile virus is spread by mosquito
By Jane Hughes in New York

A massive insect eradication programme is underway in New York, following the news that a deadly mosquito-borne disease - which first appeared in the United States last year - has survived the winter.

Seven people were killed by West Nile virus last summer, and as many as 2,000 were infected.

In the kind of drizzly weather mosquitoes love, the hunt is on for the breeding grounds of Culex Pipens.

This is the strain that brought the deadly West Nile virus into the western hemisphere for the first time.

Every abandoned boat or every old car tyre potentially harbours the bug.

It is a painstaking multi-million dollar operation involving agencies from the National Parks Service to the Pentagon.

New York is trying to avoid a repeat of last summer's massive aerial spraying programme after the virus first struck and left New Yorkers terrified.

Scientists had hoped the winter cold would wipe it out.

Virus detected

However, new traces of the disease have been detected. It has already killed one hawk.

Dead birds were the first indicators of West Nile virus last year.

Street by street, workers are treating New York's water with larvacide pellets designed to stop the mosquitoes hatching out at all.

However, they know they could be fighting a losing battle.

New York may be shaken by the presence of West Nile virus, but the big fear is that it will travel down to the south of the United States, where mosquitoes breed for longer and in far greater numbers.

Howard Ginsberg is the man charged by the National Geological Survey with co-ordinating efforts to contain the virus.

He believes it could be the first in a host of new diseases arriving here.

In the chilly damp of a New York spring it is hard to imagine the swarms of deadly mosquitos will be back.

However, these waters are harbouring millions of larvae ready to hatch out, and when they do the disease that terrorised New York could begin to make its way across the rest of the United States.

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29 Sep 99 | Medical notes
Encephalitis
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