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West Nile cases up, deaths not

By Associated Press
Published September 19, 2003

ATLANTA - The United States is headed for another record number of West Nile cases this year, with the total shooting up by more than a third in the past week alone, the government said Thursday.

Nationwide, 4,137 human cases had been reported by Thursday, just 19 shy of last year's total of 4,156, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. One reason for the higher numbers is a widely available test to diagnose the virus, health officials have said.

Despite the high number of infections, there have been far fewer deaths. So far, 80 have been reported; last year, 284 died from the virus.

The number of reported infections climbed by more than 1,200 in the past week. But health officials said even that may be far lower than the number of actual cases.

Most infected people suffer a mild flulike illness or experience no symptoms at all. A small fraction of people infected become seriously ill with encephalitis or meningitis. The virus is passed by bites from mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds.

Vaccine takes chickenpox out of typical childhood

ATLANTA - America is close to scratching chickenpox off the list of childhood rites of passage.

Cases of the blister-causing disease have dropped by more than 75 percent since a vaccine was introduced in 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. Only about six in 10,000 Americans got the disease in 2001, compared with 27 in 10,000 a decade ago.

The figures are based on records in four states that have closely tracked chickenpox for several years: Illinois, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia. But the national picture likely resembles those findings, CDC researchers said.

Nationwide, about 81 percent of children under age 4 received the vaccine last year. The rate ranged from 51 percent in Montana to 91 percent in the District of Columbia.

Measles outbreak in Marshall Islands hits 700

More than 700 people have developed measles in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and three have died from it in a continuing outbreak that began in mid July, federal health officials said on Thursday.

The epidemic is the largest since 1992, when 1,100 people developed measles in Texas, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The federal agency provides some health services, including measles vaccine, for the 31 atolls that compose the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

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