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A mosquito that has invaded the United States can carry a type of encephalitis which threatens children, University of Tennessee researchers have found.

The Asian tiger mosquito, introduced to the United States accidentally in 1985, can carry the virus that causes La Crosse encephalitis, the type of the disease that most commonly affects U.S. children, said Dr. Reid Gerhardt, an entomologist with UT-s Agricultural Experiment Station.

Scientists previously thought that a native North American mosquito was the only carrier of the potentially fatal virus, he said, but an increase in the number of cases suggest that the disease may have found other carriers.

The study found that tiger mosquitoes may be associated with 16 of 17 cases of the disease that occurred in the East Tennessee region in 2000. The state is second only to West Virginia in the number of cases reported last year.

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