West Nile spread - NEWS FOCUS 65 64 63 62 61 60 59 58 57 56...

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65 64 63 62 61 60 59 58 57 56 55 54 53 52 51 50 49 48 47 46 45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 20 SEPTEMBER 2002 VOL 297 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org 1988 CREDIT: GRAHAM GORDON RAMSAY NEWS FOCUS CAMBRIDGE,MASSACHUSETTS— It’s a glorious September morning in this city of brick and ivy—but you’d never know that from where Paul Reiter is working. Wearing waders and brandishing a flashlight, Reiter is making his way through thigh-deep, murky water in one of the city’s storm sewers. The concrete pipe, so narrow it forces him to stoop like a hunch- back, is a claustrophobe’s nightmare. But Reiter doesn’t mind. “It smells rather sweet today,” he says, cheerfully forging ahead. “It’s usually more fecal.” Reiter carefully scans the curved con- crete surrounding him with his flashlight: He’s looking for mosquitoes that have cho- sen to overwinter in this netherworld. A mosquito expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently stationed at Harvard University, Reiter hopes to shed more light on the insects’ life cycle—and with it, on the spread of the West Nile virus, which is now taking North America by storm. When a Los Angeles woman was diagnosed with West Nile last week, it marked the virus’s arrival on the West Coast, barely 3 years after it was first detected in New York City. With more than 1400 cases so far and 66 deaths, the 2002 outbreak is also remarkably vicious; there were only 149 cases and 18 deaths in the three previous seasons com- bined. Adding to the worries, several people recently became ill after receiving blood from a West Nile– infected donor, sparking alarm about the safety of the blood supply. The outbreak is straining CDC’s re- sources, and it has jolted state and local health authorities as well as academic re- searchers into action. But researchers have trouble answering some basic questions about the epidemic, such as these: How does the virus spread so fast? Why is this year’s epidemic so intense? And how best to control it? Reiter says studying the secret lives of mosquitoes might help find some answers. He’s focusing on Culex pipiens , an abundant species that transmits the virus among birds in the northern United States. Cambridge is as good a place as any to study mosquitoes, he says. Elsewhere in the city, Reiter and Harvard entomologist An- drew Spielman have turned a typical street—upscale, tree-lined Lexington Avenue—into an urban field site. Students walk into backyards there every morning to collect mosquito eggs and to hoist pigeons, housed in cages that double as mosquito traps, high into the canopy. The residents— many of them Harvard faculty members and retirees—find it all quite interesting and seem happy to help. Viral blitzkrieg
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West Nile spread - NEWS FOCUS 65 64 63 62 61 60 59 58 57 56...

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