New York City admits spraying insecticide for the wrong disease

New York Mayor Ruddy Guiliani admitted that he ordered comprehensive aerial insecticide spraying of New York City to curb an outbreak of St Louis encephalitis that did not exist.

Scientists have identified the virus that has killed four people as West Nile fever or something similar. West Nile fever is usually found in Africa and Asia and has not previously been known in the northern hemisphere.

Announcing the reclassification of the mosquito-borne disease, Guiliani asserted that the insecticide sprayed in early September (see related story) is equally effective in reducing mosquito populations carrying West Nile fever or similar diseases.

The reclassified disease has spread in the human population to New York state and has been found in mosquitoes in Connecticut. Three Connecticut towns were sprayed with insecticide last week (see related story) in an effort to keep it from spreading to humans.

US Geological Services (USGS) wildlife biologists will begin testing live crows next week to assess the range of the virus. According to the USGS, crows appear to be particularly sensitive to infection by West Nile-like fever and therefore may serve as a reliable indicator of the virus’ presence.

A Wildlife Health Alert has been issued to federal and state wildlife representatives operating in areas east of the Mississippi River to be on the lookout for dead crows and other birds.

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