Introduction: West Nile (WN) virus has emerged in recent years in temperate regions of Europe and North America, presenting a threat to public, equine, and animal health. The most serious manifestation of WN virus infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds.
History: West Nile virus was first isolated from a febrile adult woman in the West Nile District of Uganda in 1937. The ecology was characterized in Egypt in the 1950s. The virus became recognized as a cause of severe human meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and brain) in elderly patients during an outbreak in Israel in 1957. Equine disease was first noted in Egypt and France in the early 1960s. The first appearance of WN virus in North America in 1999, with encephalitis reported in humans and horses, and the subsequent spread in the United States may be an important milestone in the evolving history of this virus. View enlarged image .
Geographic Distribution: West Nile virus has been described in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, west and central Asia, Oceania (subtype Kunjin), and most recently, North America. Recent outbreaks of WN virus encephalitis in humans have occurred in Algeria in 1994, Romania in 1996-1997, the Czech Republic in 1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1998, Russia in 1999, the United States in 1999-2001, and Israel in 2000. Epizootics of disease in horses occurred in Morocco in 1996, Italy in 1998, the United States in 1999-2001, and France in 2000. In the U.S. through the end of 2001, WN virus has been documented in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. As of July 18, 2002, there have been 152 total human cases of West Nile virus illness reported to CDC and confirmed, including 18 fatalities.