- The deadly encephalitis plaguing the Northeast is neither
the St. Louis nor West Nile virus but appears to be a never-before-seen
strain, researchers said yesterday.
- The director of the University of California team unraveling
the genetic structure of the virus that has killed seven people called
the discovery "a significant breakthrough."
- In another development, Nassau County officials confirmed
the death of the third victim outside New York City. Jennie Annette, 76,
a retired clerk at the Fortunoff department store in Westbury, L.I., died
Monday at Winthrop-University Hospital.
- Annette came down with a high fever and chills Sept.
22, and her husband, Bill, rushed her to the emergency room.
- "When she first got sick, she started shivering,"
said Joanne Annette, her daughter-in-law. "Then she got this terrible
fever, 105 degrees. It went down after four days, then it came back like
wildfire. She was totally out of it. She wouldn't move. She moaned, but
she couldn't talk.
- "She never came out of it," Joanne Annette
- Statewide, the number of confirmed encephalitis cases
stood at 54, including 39 in the city and nine in Westchester County, said
state Health Department spokeswoman Kristine Smith. The other six victims,
including Annette, are in Nassau.
- There is one confirmed case in New Jersey.
- New York City officials in September identified the virus
as St. Louis encephalitis. Further tests at the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention showed it was a West Nile-like strain.
- Now, with 20% of the genetic profile completed, scientists
at the University of California at Davis are saying the virus fails to
match any known strain, although it most closely resembles West Nile, said
Dr. Ian Lipkind, director of the emerging diseases lab.
- Lipkind is an author of a paper about the outbreak being
published tomorrow in Lancet, a weekly British medical journal. Editors
pushed the peer-reviewed paper through in about three hours because of
its importance to the medical world, Lipkind said.
- "It's timely and it's hot, and they basically squeezed
another article out of the way," he said.
- Neither the city nor the CDC has helped with the estimated
$500,000 cost for the California team to break the virus' genetic code,
Lipkind said. The work, which normally takes about six months, is expected
to be completed next month and will help researchers learn how the disease
got here, and where it could spread.
- The disease is transmitted when mosquitoes bite infected
birds and then bite humans.
- "We could get this thing done more rapidly, and
look at how it interacts with animals, but the problem is money,"