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Great Lakes Article:

Two more deaths from West Nile virus reported in Great Lakes Region , if confirmed would boost toll to 22

(08-27) 13:26 PDT SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) --

Illinois' death toll from the West Nile virus has doubled to four, state health officials said Tuesday, the latest indication that the mosquito-borne virus, once focused on the South, is increasingly infecting people farther north.

If confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the deaths would raise the human toll to 22 nationwide.

The latest Illinois fatalities were an 83-year-old man from Chicago, who died Aug. 21, and a 92-year-old woman from the suburbs north of the city who died Saturday.

Both had West Nile encephalitis -- an inflammation of the brain -- and the man also had other conditions that may have contributed to his death, the Illinois Department of Public Health said.

So far this year, the CDC in Atlanta has reported 425 human cases of West Nile in the country's worst outbreak since the virus first was detected here in 1999. Seven people died in New York that year, and the virus has since been found in animals or humans in 41 states.

People have been diagnosed with West Nile in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The virus has been reported from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, but it has done most of its damage this year in the South -- especially Louisiana, with 171 human cases and eight deaths. Louisiana officials said last week they believed the number of new cases there was decreasing, while northern states have seen their numbers shoot up.

On Aug. 16, the CDC reported only about 4 percent of the human West Nile cases, and none of the deaths, were outside the South. By Monday, about 22 percent of the cases and five of the deaths came from the Midwest and Northeast; Illinois' fatalities, and 29 new human cases it announced Monday and Tuesday, drive the percentage close to 30 percent.

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