Most people who contract the mosquito-borne pathogen West Nile virus are asymptomatic, and even those who do get sick usually experience flu-like symptoms that resolve on their own. In a small percentage of those infected, the symptoms can be much worse: swelling of the brain and permanent neurological damage among them. Now, the Washington Post reports there are signs that the virus could be getting worse and evidence of a possible cover-up in the form of a “recalled” email:
Last month, Leis asked a Food and Drug Administration scientist who studies the genetics of the virus whether a new, more virulent strain was circulating.
“You are absolutely right . . . that new genetic variants of WNV might have appeared this year,” the scientist replied in an Oct. 23 e-mail obtained by The Washington Post. The scientist continued that “it is not easy to correlate” the new mutations with any specific type of brain damage.
Thirty minutes after Leis received the message, another e-mail from the same scientist arrived. It said the previous message had been “recalled.”
When contacted by phone, the FDA scientist, who works at the agency’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, declined to discuss the messages, saying that his superiors had instructed him not to talk to reporters.