Killer on the loose

2019-03-07 01:05:01

By Kurt Kleiner HEALTH officials in the US say they still don’t know why New York City has suffered an outbreak of deadly encephalitis. Some scientists blame global warming for the spread of the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. So far, three New Yorkers have died from St Louis encephalitis, named after the Midwestern city in which it was first discovered. All were in their eighties. The virus infects birds, but can be passed to people by mosquitoes. City officials sprayed the insecticide malathion from helicopters and trucks last week in an attempt to control the mosquito vectors. People were warned to stay inside between dusk and dawn, when the mosquitoes are most active. And they were also told to fit screens over open windows, and to remove any standing water from their property to prevent the insects breeding. Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, says a team of CDC epidemiologists is trying to determine the cause of the outbreak. Possibilities include unusual weather patterns, changed migration patterns of infected birds, or changes in the pattern of insecticide spraying in New York. The city has had a succession of relatively mild winters, and this year had an early drought followed by heavy rain. Paul Epstein,