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West Nile Virus Invades
Chicago This Year

1999, 2000 and 2001 were the warmest years on record for the Earth. The lowest temperature recorded in Chicago during that period was barely below zero, as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere generated by the burning of fossil fuels and forests continued to increase.

Almost weekly we have been hearing of additonal evidence of global warming; just this week another huge chunk of Antarctica ice (this one the size of Rhode Island) collapsed into the sea and melted. And large surfaces of the Earth, formerly covered with white snow or ice which reflected the sun's warmth back into space, are now dark. And the sun's warmth is redoubled and multiplied; and the Earth continues to heat....

As a result of this warming, several deadly diseases have invaded the northern latitudes for the first time, including the West Nile virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The West Nile virus, which can be transmitted by mosquitoes, is a form of encephalitis, a brain infection. One form of encephalitis is sometimes called "sleeping sickness" because infected patients exhibit extreme lethargy, double vision and apathy.

Although no one in Chicago has yet been infected with the West Nile virus (as of March 2002), diseased birds, other animals and mosquitoes have been recently found in the state for the first time. Apparently only one percent of infected people develop serious symtoms of West Nile. However, the disease can be serious for the very young, the e elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

Orienteers have been dealing with another virus called Lyme disease, which is carried by small ticks, for a decade. The symtoms of Lyme disease are a red rash that persists for several days. Although there are few reliable tests if you suspect you are infected with these viruses, immediate medical care should be sought. And during the exam, the physician should be told of your recent exposure to the out-of-doors.

This news only increases the reasons to use insect repellant and complete clothing whenever you are outside. And to maintain a watchful eye for any indications of infection. Thanks to modern medicine, none of these diseases are a problem if detected and treated in time.

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