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The West Nile Virus BACKGROUND AND DISTRIBUTION A West Nile WN virus was first isolated in 1937 from the peripheral blood of a woman in the West Nile province of Uganda in Central Africa Since then WN viruses have been reported from North Africa Egypt Israel East Central and South Africa Asia India Pakistan Borneo Europe Cyprus France Romania and most recently the northeastern USA Tests for antibody to WN suggest it has also been present in Thailand the Philippines Malaysia Turkey and Albania West Nile viruses are members of the virus family Flaviviridae and are closely related to Japanese encephalitis viruses from the Old World and St Louis encephalitis SLE viruses from the New World In addition WN cross-reacts in a variety of serological tests including the plaque reduction neutralization test with Murray Valley encephalitis MVE Usutu Kunjin Kokobera Stratford and Alfuy viruses It was this cross reactivity of the New York City NYC WN with SLE serologic reagents that initially confused this virus with SLE Additional tests that used direct examination of the gene sequence of the NYC virus identified it as a WN-like virus not SLE West Nile is represented by at least 2 distinct antigenic groups One the African-Middle Eastern group contains WN isolates from the Congo Egypt Israel Uganda South Africa Pakistan France and Eastern Europe The second antigenic group contains WN isolates from India and South Africa HISTORY The earliest reported epidemics caused by WN were in Israel The first involved more than 500 clinical cases in 1950 Additional epidemics were reported from Israel in 1951 1952 1953 and 1957 The 1950 and 1957 epidemics were reported from a site 40 miles north of Tel Aviv while the 1951 epidemic occurred at a site 15 miles southeast of Tel Aviv In 1952 1953 and 1954 cases were reported from both areas indicting the ability of this virus to be extremely focal in its epidemic transmission
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