When many of us heard about the panic over the West Nile virus -- a disease that has been killing birds throughout the U.S. and is carried by mosquitoes -- it was similar to the panic that surrounded potential invasion of South American killer bees.
Doomsayers said that killer bees would spread throughout the U.S. -- they never did -- so when the same was said about West Nile virus last year, many just laughed it off as a Chicken Little "The sky is falling" rambling.
Nobody's laughing now. In the last week, the number of confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Minnesota horses jumped from 34 last Friday to 96 as of Tuesday morning and the number is growing. Why is this of concern to the Vikings? A doctor with the state department of health answered that for VU.
"When the first reports of West Nile virus came in, the cases were of dead crows and blue jays," the doctor told VU. "It was only a matter of time before it spread to mammals via mosquitoes. Now that it has been found in horses, it is only a matter of time before the first human cases are a reported, and that's what the concern on our end is at the moment."
The concern centers around the amount of standing water that has been left by torrential rains throughout Minnesota the last several weeks. This is a prime breeding time for mosquitoes and the concern over potentially dangerous mosquito bites is real and the Vikings medical personnel have been advised to be on the lookout for symptoms of West Nile -- which act similar to flu-like symptoms in humans.
While West Nile is far from deadly -- only one in 100 people who is infected with the virus will become seriously ill -- 13 people in the U.S. have died from the virus, including nine in the State of Louisiana. One of the reasons for concern is that the spread of the disease from birds to horses has been its strongest near Eden Prairie, where the Vikings train.
Nearby Wright County, which borders Hennepin County less than 10 miles away from Winter Park, has reported the most West Nile horse infections in the state with 13 as of Tuesday. That, combined with the rain, standing water and ripe potential for mosquito breeding grounds have the Vikings taking a long look at the potential dangers of outdoor practices and players being exposed to dangerous mosquito bites.
Keep in mind that when Korey Stringer first began to have a bad reaction to his heat stroke last year, the Vikings medical staff first theorized it might have been a reaction to a bug bite that affected him. While many may believe the panic and notoriety that the West Nile virus has received may be more hype than substance, the Vikings aren't sharing that feeling. With a team that is being extremely cautious medically in light of Stringer's death, some members of the team personnel are taking the matter very seriously.
* Lewis Kelly didn't practice Wednesday after getting kicked in the calf during Tuesday's practice. He wore a protective boot over the leg, but is expected to play Friday.
* After having a healthy training camp, Tennessee QB Steve McNair got a pain injection in his back Wednesday to reduce swelling around his spine. While he hasn't been ruled out Friday, he is expected to play a quarter at most if he is in the lineup.
* Another star the Vikings may not see is Eddie George. He's had an effective camp after suffering a slew of injuries last year, but the Titans are being very careful with him and VU has been told they are considering sitting him out Friday. If he does play, it will likely be for just a series or two at most.
Vikings Concerned About West Nile
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