By Jeffrey N. Sfakianos, Alan Hecht
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Additional resources for West Nile Virus (Deadly Diseases and Epidemics) 2nd Edition
Shortly after admission each one fell into a coma and eventually died. This certainly stimulated the interest of the health department and an investigation was started. It turned out that the four victims did not know each other and had nothing in common, with one exception. There were several areas with standing water close to each of their houses. In addition, these bodies of water were rather filled with large mosquito populations. Clearly, what had happened here was transmission of West Nile virus from the crows to the humans via the mosquitoes.
Some of the squirrels that were naturally infected with West Nile virus had levels of viremia (virus in the blood) sufficient enough to potentially infect mosquitoes. This would make these squirrels another reservoir for the disease in addition to birds. Another interesting finding was that at least half of the tree squirrels infected were found to shed West Nile virus in their oral secretions. In fact, West Nile virus RNA was detected in fecal, oral, and urine samples of squirrels that were experimentally infected.
The conformational change that the proteins undergo when exposed to acidic environments was an extraordinary discovery. Two scientists were responsible for making this discovery: Don Wiley of Harvard University and Sir John Skehel of the National Institute for Medical Research in London, England. Wiley and Skehel’s discovery virions must replicate. The genome (all of an organism’s genetic material) of the West Nile virus is contained on a single strand of approximately 11,000 nucleotides, known as RNA.