The West Nile virus (WN) is widely distributed in Africa and Europe. It has usually been associated with mild illness that includes low-grade fever, headache, rash, myalgia, and polyarthropathy. In 1999, WN was detected for the first time in the northeastern part of the U.S. The virus is now found in the southern and western states and in Southern Canada.
Severe illness is most common in the elderly. It can cause hepatitis, meningitis, and encephalitis leading to paralysis, coma, and death. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 3,000 WN illnesses reported that included 119 deaths in 2006, with 43 of the 48 states in the continental U.S. reporting human cases of WN disease.
Several WN vaccine approaches are being explored. These include:
- Live-attenuated virus candidates developed by chimerization with dengue fever, yellow fever, or Japanese encephalitis.
- Naked DNA vaccines.
- Vaccines containing cocktails of individual WN proteins.
Initiative for Vaccine Research
Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Here is a link to information about participating in West Nile virus vaccine studies at the CIR.