Nacogdoches sees more WNV cases, so why no human vaccine?

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches family physician Kelley Moon has seen several cases of West Nile Virus this year. All she can really do is treat the symptoms.

"Severe, severe headache. Where they just hurt. They can't get relief," described Moon of the typical symptoms.

Local physicians aren't always ordering expensive tests to confirm their diagnosis of West Nile Virus. People with a strong immune system are recovering over several days from the annoying 'flu like' symptoms. Dr. Moon vaccinates her horse against west Nile, but she can't vaccinate her patients.

"I anticipate some type of response from pharmaceutical companies from the CDC, some type of response to the epidemic that we're seeing now,"  said moon.

Molecular biologist Dr. Sarah Canterberry is conducting research on viruses transmitted by ticks. The SFA professor says study leading to human vaccines is well underway.

"At the molecular level; can we specifically target these viruses and prevent them from replicating and where we're really looking at ways that we can stop the virus in its tracks, rather than just treating the symptoms," explained Canterberry.

Despite the promising research, pharmaceutical regulations often slow development down.

"The safety issues. There aren't quite as many for developing vaccines for livestock as there are for humans," said Canterberry.

Meanwhile, theories of why West Nile Virus is so bad this year are discussed.

"We had such a dry summer last year that only the strongest of the mosquitoes survived," laughed Moon.   "And that I really felt these mosquitoes were more potent, even to me."

Canterberry pondered the theory. "That would be an interesting thing to look into."

Until a scientific explanation arises humans are advised precaution remains the best prescription against catching animal borne viruses.

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