SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 2018

UCLA study shows increase of deaths from West Nile virus

With recent scares of the Ebola virus in the news, such illnesses as West Nile virus and Dengue fever have been overshadowed while researchers uncover considerable data to show growing concerns.

Ryan Harrigan, researcher at UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, published his findings that address the increase in bird deaths due to West Nile, which is a concern for the health of people.

“We hypothesize that the recent droughts in California have possibly increased the spreading of the virus,” Harrigan said. “With fewer water sources, more birds and mosquitoes congregate to those available sources of water. This creates more transfer between bird species and when they move on, they spread it even further.” 

As concerns rise for the bird population, it is natural to also be concerned for the human population. There have been approximately 2,000 deaths from West Nile in the U.S. to date. 

Harrigan explained that the recent research he conducted covered a broad spectrum approach of 49 species to see how the populations in California were being affected by West Nile. One-third of the bird population studied was in danger of the virus and millions of birds die each year.

“Though a virus like Ebola is dangerous, in the U.S. there are more deaths from West Nile and we are trying to inform people on how to prevent contracting the virus,” Harrigan said. “We are aiming to inform people on recognizing symptoms and know how to protect themselves. Avoiding crepuscular times of the day, wearing appropriate clothing when outdoors and using insect sprays when needed to protect oneself from mosquito bites” are helpful tips Harrigan offers.

Harrigan’s next stage in research is to study more closely each species of bird to see which ones are the most affected by the virus.