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As the West Nile Virus season winds down for most of the North American continent, officials have provided updated statistics, one area of which indicates that Los Angeles County was hardest hit. Other areas of the report indicate that the virus is continuing to change. "It's the new polio," said James J. Rahal, a professor at the Cornell University Weill College of Medicine in New York. "It's a devastating complication. The West Nile virus can cause the same paralysis and pathology as polio."
The statistics include:
• 1,951 people were infected in the U.S. this year, 37% of which developed paralysis, encephalitis and meningitis-all complications that can lead to death.
• 266 residents of Los Angeles County contracted the virus, 44% (116) of which developed the neuro-invasive complications.
• Of those 116 cases, 73 suffered meningitis, 39 encephalitis, and four paralysis; eight of the patients died-the most of any county in California.
Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's health officer, said, "It appears that, at least, the neuroinvasive diseases are more serious and can cause a higher frequency of continuing problems than was originally thought. There have been a significant number of people in early and middle adulthood who have been affected. If you look at the fatalities, they tend to be in older people, but in terms of the neuro-invasive cases, there was a significant number who were middle-aged and even younger who came down with this problem."
Dr. Carol Glaser, chief of the viral disease lab at the California Department of Health Services, said experts believe the virus in the United States is much stronger than originally thought.
Source: Los Angeles Daily News