CHICAGO, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois said Wednesday they have confirmed the first known cases of West Nile virus in a dog but they doubt it means greater likelihood of infection from the mosquito-borne disease.
The researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana-Champaign said they found the disease in an 8-year-old Irish setter-golden retriever mix from the Bloomington-Normal area. West Nile also was confirmed in a 3-month-old wolf at the Peoria Zoo and three gray squirrels -- two in Chicago and one in Champaign.
John Andrews, director of the veterinary diagnostic laboratory, told the Chicago Tribune that the dog had neurological symptoms consistent with a number of diseases, including rabies, distemper and other types of encephalitis, but when they gave the dog the test for West Nile, it came up positive.
The infected squirrels were reported biting their paws and sounded like they were crying out in pain.
West Nile mainly is a disease of birds but also has been confirmed in horses and people.
The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed at least 80 human deaths this year from the disease, with Illinois leading the nation with 21 fatalities prior to Wednesday.
Illinois health officials added a 22nd fatality Wednesday, a 72-year-old southern Cook County woman who died Tuesday. In all, the Illinois caseload stands at 424. Nationally, the CDC puts the number of cases at 1,641.
The disease also has been reported in a Rocky Mountain goat, chipmunks, a rabbit, a skunk and stray cats, according to the Agriculture Department.
Health officials have reported two more West Nile fatalities in the Cincinnati area: a 43-year-old Bellevue, Ky., man who died Sept. 7 and Robert H. Bell, 79, a traveling country-Western guitarist, who died Aug. 12. There have been eight deaths in Ohio and three in Kentucky. Canada has reported one death.
"I'm praying for an early, killing frost," Tim Ingram, Hamilton County health commissioner, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We're concerned that, even though the message has been out there, that there are still people who don't understand they can significantly reduce their risk by eliminating standing water and protecting themselves."
Mississippi also reported two more West Nile deaths, bringing to six the state's total number of cases. Hinds County Supervisor Doug Anderson said the county has spent an extra $100,000 on mosquito abatement.
"It's a problem that you really can't eradicate," Anderson told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
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