Deaths from West Nile virus hit record last year

WASHINGTON - U.S. health officials say last year was the worst ever for West Nile virus deaths.

The final tally reported Monday was 286 deaths -- or two more than the record set in 2002.

But there were far fewer illnesses overall, and fewer serious cases than in previous years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had predicted it would be a bad year because of weather conditions that promote breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people.

The CDC report Monday showed Texas had nearly a third of the serious cases, and about a third of the deaths.

West Nile virus was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but no cases were reported in the U.S. until 1999 in New York. It gradually spread to the West Coast.

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