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KNOXVILLE — Administrators with the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine say Tennesseans should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and the possibility of contracting West Nile Virus, but not to panic about the possibility of catching the disease.

“We’ve seen West Nile in animals in Tennessee, but I wouldn’t call what we have here an

epidemic,” says Dr. Michael Blackwell, dean of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. “If animal owners have questions or concerns, they should contact their local veterinarian.”

West Nile recently claimed the lives of four people in Louisiana, and infected more than 50 other people in that state. Nationally the disease has killed 22 people since 1999, and it has infected humans in nine states. The mosquito-borne virus can cause the potentially fatal brain inflammation known as encephalitis, as well as other milder illnesses. The disease has spread now to people and animals in 34 states, including Tennessee.

No humans have been infected in Tennessee, but the UT College of Veterinary Medicine reports that two East Tennessee horses have been fatally infected with the virus. UT veterinarians also recently successfully treated a horse from Kentucky that was suffering from West Nile virus.

Click here for the full story from the UT Institute of Agriculture.