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2004 A MILD YEAR SO FAR FOR WEST NILE VIRUS

After two record-breaking years of West Nile virus illnesses and deaths, the nation is experiencing a relatively mild season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

CDC data shows 2,282 people have been sickened by the mosquito-borne virus and 77 have died this year. This time last year, there were 8,219 illnesses and 182 deaths.

The virus went on to sicken 9,858 and kill 262 in 2003. There were 4,156 cases and 284 deaths in 2002.

The CDC does not know why the numbers declined. Temperature, rainfall and prevention could be factors, said Dr. Ned Hayes, a CDC West Nile expert.

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