The cases of West Nile Virus in humans that we hear about are the most obvious cases with the most serious symptoms. But researchers also want to track the less serious cases to learn more about how west Nile behaves in most people.
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West Nile has been racing across America. So far, nearly two hundred human cases, and five deaths. But there are still many more we don't know about.
Internist Dr. Katherine Heilpern estimates that for every case of meningitis or encephalitis, that is inflammation of the brain or inflammation of the fluid surrounding the brain, that there are 150 patients that have West Nile infection but may have very mild symptoms.
Dr. Heilpern says she believes the higher number of West Nile cases reported this year is because of more aggressive testing this year.
The national study has been underway for about a month and will continue through the end of mosquito season in October. The government is hoping to see how West Nile reacts in not so sick patients and in doing so come up with good treatment for even the mildest of symptoms.