Two U.S. hospitals test West Nile vaccine

July 18, 2006 at 11:25 AM
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NASHVILLE, July 18 (UPI) -- Vanderbilt University Medical Center has reportedly become the second U.S. hospital testing a new vaccine for the potentially deadly West Nile virus.

Researchers at Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore are studying the safety of the shot that protects against the virus that's transmitted by mosquito bites, The Nashville Tennessean reported Tuesday.

"We have a new virus that most people have not been exposed to or protected against," Dr. Peter Wright, a Vanderbilt professor of pediatrics and specialist in immunology, told the newspaper. "We really don't know how this disease will progress in the future. So the prospect of this vaccine is very exciting."

Currently there is no vaccine or treatment for the West Nile virus that, last year, infected about 3,000 people and caused approximately 119 deaths.

The vaccine contains proteins from the live West Nile virus, but in quantities that do not make people sick, Wright told the Tennessean. Yet the body recognizes the virus and creates antibodies that will prevent infection if the person is again exposed to the virus.

Side effects of the vaccine may include fever, headache and skin rashes, Wright said.

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