Zoonotic West Nile virus (WNV) circulates in natural transmission cycles involving certain mosquitoes and birds, horses, humans, and a range of other vertebrates are incidental hosts. Clinical infections in humans can range in severity from uncomplicated WNV fever to fatal meningoencephalitis. Since its introduction to the Western Hemisphere in 1999, WNV had spread across North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, although the vast majority of severe human cases have occurred in the United States of America (USA) and Canada. By 2002-2003, the WNV outbreaks have involved thousands of patients causing severe neurologic disease (meningoencephalitis and poliomyelitis-like syndrome) and hundreds of associated fatalities in USA. The purpose of this review is to present recent information on the epidemiology and pathogenicity of WNV since its emergence in North America. © 2010 INRA, EDP Sciences.
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