Local Officials Brace For West Nile Virus

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The West Nile virus is expected to hit Nevada for the first time this summer, and health officials across the state plan to pool resources to deal with it.

This year's new coordinated approach is in response to the danger posed by the mosquito-borne disease, officials said.

Participants include health or mosquito control districts in Washoe, Clark, Churchill and Douglas counties, Carson City and Mason Valley. The state will coordinate activities in rural areas with no mosquito control program.

"We're just going to all band together," said Scott Monsen, chief of the Washoe District Health Department's mosquito control program.

"Our whole idea is to localize it, if possible, before it gets widespread. We really don't want it to get out of hand like it did in Colorado last year," he said.

Last year, Colorado was hardest hit by the virus, with 2,947 people sickened and 61 dying, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, 9,858 people were diagnosed with health problems caused by the virus in 2003, with 262 dying.

Two Nevadans were infected with West Nile last year, but both contracted the disease while out of state, officials said.

Since West Nile first surfaced in New York in 1999, only Nevada and Oregon have been spared locally-generated infections.

If a West Nile outbreak surfaces in Nevada, officials from various jurisdictions will respond in force to try to quickly wipe out the infected mosquito population, officials said.

"We're trying to approach it as a regional thing because these diseases are not limited by political boundaries," Monson told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Experts expected the virus to reach Nevada last summer but it didn't, possibly because of dry conditions that limited mosquito numbers, said Dr. David Thain, state veterinarian.

"We dodged a bullet last year," Thain said, adding the virus should reach Nevada by mid-July.

Costs incurred by officials responding outside their areas would be reimbursed by the county of origin or possible state assistance.

"We'll settle the dollars after the dust settles," said Mike Wargo of the Churchill County Mosquito and Weed Abatement District.