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West Nile Death Confirmed

The mosquito-borne West Nile virus has claimed its first confirmed U.S. victim this year, a woman in her 70s who died in Baton Rouge.

The woman, who was not identified, died Monday. She is one of 32 people in Louisiana known to have West Nile virus.

Louisiana State Health Department spokesman Bob Johannessen says authorities are also working to determine whether West Nile is the cause of two other Louisiana deaths.

Before the woman's death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 185 cases, including 18 deaths, since the first Americans were diagnosed in 1999. The virus was first detected in New York City and has been found in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

West Nile can cause a potentially fatal brain inflammation. It has struck other countries for decades, from the tip of Africa up to Europe and throughout Asia.

The virus infects numerous types of wild birds, from house sparrows to crows. Mosquitoes spread it among birds, and then to people. A spate of dead birds can be an early warning signal that the virus is circulating in a certain spot.

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