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August 19, 2016

United Nations admit role in Haitian cholera outbreak of 2010

United Nations admit role in Haitian cholera outbreak of 2010

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Friday, August 19, 2016

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For the first time, the United Nations (U.N) has acknowledged its involvement in the Haiti cholera outbreak of 2010, admitting the disease was carried by Nepalese peace workers, contracted with the earthquake relief on behalf of the U.N.. In an email sent this week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the U.N. played a role in the spread of the disease, which affected hundreds of thousands of Haitian people, but he stopped short of admitting sole culpability for the epidemic.

New York University law professor Philip Alston, convinced Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, that the U.N.’s operation lack of basic hygiene checks was legally indefensible: as quoted in the Washington Post.

Image of cholera bacteria though a scanning electron microscope.
Image: Ronald Taylor, Tom Kirn, Louisa Howard.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the gastrointestinal illness hadn’t been recorded on the island nation prior to this outbreak, inviting immediate speculation over how it began.

Medical researchers tracked the disease to Haiti and found that Nepalese representatives had worked for the United Nations immediately after a mission in Nepal where cholera was present.

Reports from the United Nations indicate that this admission will lead to an overhaul in approaches to peacekeeping missions. According to a statement from Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the Secretary General, these changes will be developed over the next two months.

The U.N. have long maintained legal immunity in national courts, resulting in the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit in the United States addressing the cholera involvement on Thursday.

The lawsuit was brought by representatives of the victims and their families and sought reparations for the damages brought by the cholera outbreak. The plaintiffs now have the option to appeal to the U.S Supreme Court to overturn this decision.



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May 29, 2016

WHO rejects concern to postpone Rio Olympics ahead of Zika Virus outbreak

WHO rejects concern to postpone Rio Olympics ahead of Zika Virus outbreak

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Olympic Games remain set to take place in Rio de Janeiro this August ahead of the Zika Virus threat after the World Health Organisation has dismissed concern to relocate or postpone the tournament, despite experts warning otherwise.

In wake of the Zika threat, 150 experts including a former White House science advisor rallied together to produce a signed and open letter to WHO, addressing their mutual concern that the incurable virus could manifest and therefore spread more rapidly in the Brazilian city as an influx of foreign visitors arrive.

Despite their distress, a spokesperson from the UN health body urged that the spread of the Zika Virus would not be prevented by moving or postponing the games in Rio, even after the country recently recorded to have high cases of the mosquito-borne disease.

According to a WHO statement, “Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which to date report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes. People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons. The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice.” The statement also assured the public that the situation would continue to be monitored and that updates and necessary advice would be issued if circumstances were to change.

In light of the letter to WHO, the main concern of Bournemouth University’s reproductive health professor Edwin Van Teijlingen, who was one of the 150 academics involved, was that countries with poorer health systems would be able to facilitate in spreading the virus as people returned homed from Rio.

Despite having alarm about the letter itself, Van Teijlingen admitted that the main purpose of gaining a high number of supporting academic signatures was not in fact to get the games moved or postponed, but rather to raise awareness of the threat to the public health system that the Zika Virus currently poses.

As Brazil currently stands to be the second most affected city by the Zika Virus, the letter argued that it would be “unethical” and “irresponsible” to otherwise press on with the Rio games, as Australian experts believe that it positions an unimaginable risk.

Even with such heavy concern surrounding the virus and the Olympic event, former Olympic pentathlete Heather Fell told the BBC’s Today program that it was very common in her time for athletes to disregard medical advice from their doctors because of the passion, hard work and training that goes into Olympic level competing. The British star added that for anyone to decide not to travel to Brazil because of the importance placed on the games, a “world-changing” event would have to happen, and the Zika Virus is currently not that to hard working competitors.


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October 15, 2015

Scottish Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey \’critically ill\’ says Royal Free Hospital

Scottish Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey ‘critically ill’ says Royal Free Hospital

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

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The Royal Free Hospital in London yesterday said a nurse suffering with complications after Ebola, Pauline Cafferkey, is “critically ill” after her condition deteriorated. Cafferkey, 39, was readmitted to an isolation unit at the Royal Free on the night of October 8–9 where she had spent time earlier in the year after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone whilst treating patients with the infection.

The hospital said in a statement: “We are sad to announce that Pauline Cafferkey’s condition has deteriorated and she is now critically ill. She is being treated for Ebola in the high level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital.”

Royal Free Hospital, London; from file.
Image: User:Ryan4314.

Cafferkey visited an out of hours GP clinic on October 5 where her symptoms were not linked to Ebola, before deciding to go to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on October 6 where she was treated at the hospital’s infectious diseases unit. Two days later, she was flown by plane to the Royal Free. She is the only person known to suffer with Ebola in this way for a second time, which can remain in the body after an initial recovery.

Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham said he’d heard of nothing like this. “I am not aware from the scientific literature of a case where Ebola has been associated with what we can only assume as life-threatening complications after someone has initially recovered, and certainly not so many months after.”

Pauline’s sister Toni Cafferkey was critical of the wrong diagnosis, telling the Sunday Mail newspaper, “At that point me and my family believe they missed a big opportunity to give the right diagnosis and we feel she was let down. Instead of being taken into hospital, she spent the whole of Tuesday very ill”.

A spokesperson for NHS Glasgow and Clyde said Pauline Cafferkey did receive a diagnosis from an out of hours clinic and said: “Her management and the clinical decisions taken based on the symptoms she was displaying at the time were entirely appropriate. All appropriate infection control procedures were carried out as part of this episode of care.”

Experts say they do not believe the infection recurring within Pauline Cafferkey is contagious despite monitoring 58 people she has been in contact with. This is said to be a precaution as Ebola can only be spread through body fluids and the infection is not creating the same symptoms associated with a one-off diagnosis of Ebola.



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May 8, 2015

Indiana Governor signs needle exchange program

Indiana Governor signs needle exchange program

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Friday, May 8, 2015

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Pence was a former US Representative and elected Indiana’s Governor in 2012. He will face reelection next year.
Image: United States Congress.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence dropped his former opposition to needle exchange programs and on Tuesday signed legislation passed by lawmakers on April 29 — the last day of the state’s legislative session — that would allow local health departments, municipalities, counties, or nonprofit organizations to implement needle exchange programs. The debate about the controversial programs came on the heels of an HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana.

Austin, in Scott County, Indiana, was the epicenter of the outbreak. The number of new HIV positive cases in Scott County in this outbreak rose past 140. Governor Pence declared the outbreak a public health emergency on March 26, and at the same time approved a 30-day needle exchange program. Pence since offered a 30-day extension as the number of HIV positive cases continued to rise.

Needle exchange programs provide clean needles in exchange for dirty needles. The sharing of dirty needles has been linked to the outbreak. Experts like Chris Beyrer, president of the International AIDS Society, support needle exchange programs. Beyrer told the Indianapolis Star, however, that temporary measures, like the one Pence implemented on March 26, don’t solve the long-term problem. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend needle exchange programs. But experts say long-term needle exchange programs are needed.

The HIV epidemic in Southern Indiana has been linked to a drug problem in Scott County. HIV and Hepatitis C are blood-borne viruses that spread by way of bodily fluids and bloodstream injections, especially when more than one person is using the same needle.

Legislators on the committee responsible for Senate Bill 461 heard testimony last week before voting. Representative Thomas Washburne, Republican, Evansville, told Wikinews on April 27 that he was involved in conversations pertaining to needle exchange programs. “I am inclined to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control in implementing needle exchanges,” Washburne said in an interview with Wikinews. “My vote against Senate Bill 461 was not due to the needle exchanges, but other issues involved in the bill.”

House members passed the bill 80–19, senators 38–11.

After legislators passed the bill, Pence told WISH-TV: “From my perspective, the focus needs to be on health emergencies. I have throughout my career not supported needle exchanges as anti-drug policies. But with regard to addressing an epidemic, which is what we’ve seen in Scott County, which is unprecedented in any rural part of the country. I was prepared to support that through executive action.”

Louisville, Kentucky, about 35 miles south of Austin, was the first Kentucky municipal government to approve a needle exchange program. The Louisvile Metro Council voted 22–0 to approve the program on April 23. That approval requires reconsulting the council before actually implementing such a program. About 195 cities in the United States have adopted similar programs.

Dr. William Shaffner, a doctor and chair of the Department of Preventative Medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told Wikinews reporters March 25 at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, the day before Pence declared the public health emergency, such a program would make sense. He said the best course of action would be to “block and tackle.”

“Needle exchange programs ought to be used,” Shaffner said. “They have been proven to work and do not cause an increase in drug use.”


USI Shaw Lecture 03.jpg

Dr. William Schaffner presents March 25, 2015 at the 2015 Shaw Lecture at the University of Southern Indiana about emerging infectious diseases.
Image: Gkstylianides.

USI Shaw Lecture 01.jpg

USI Biology Professor Marlene Shaw welcomes a full house to the 2015 Shaw Lecture on March 25, 2015 at the University of Southern Indiana.
Image: Gkstylianides.

USI Shaw Lecture 02.jpg

A crowd of students, faculty and healthcare professionals gather during the 2015 Shaw Lecture on March 25, 2015 in Mitchell Auditorium at the University of Southern Indiana to hear Dr. William Shaffner present.
Image: Gkstylianides.

USI Shaw Lecture 04.jpg

Dr. William Shaffner answers questions from students on March 25, 2015 during the 2015 Shaw Lecture at the University of Southern Indiana.
Image: Gkstylianides.



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January 21, 2015

Priests beaten in Forecariah, Guinea over Ebola fears

Priests beaten in Forecariah, Guinea over Ebola fears

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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Three Baptist priests in Guinea were assaulted and held hostage yesterday by local villagers after being mistaken for campaigners promoting awareness about Ebola, the BBC has reported. They were visiting Kabac, a village in the sub-prefecture of Forécariah, to spray insecticide for the treatment of wells and pit latrines. Locals reportedly thought they were bringing Ebola and attacked the priests. After the assault they were held hostage and had their vehicle set alight.

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus.
Image: Centers for Disease Control / Dr. Frederick Murphy.

Following the attack on the priests, town council workers were forced to evacuate as their building came under assault and was set fire to. A local report, not been independently verified, alleged a council worker was killed during the incident. Police intervened to arrest a number of the local villagers involved in the attacks but were met with hostility from those trying to stop the arrested being taken away.

Such incidents have been noted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A recent WHO report said “community resistance” is a “major barrier to control” in the countries Ebola has worst hit.

Forécariah has seen incidents like this before. In one incident, on September 23, two Red Cross volunteers buried an Ebola victim, and were then attacked. Villagers removed the corpse from the grave and hid it. This then grew into an attack on a team of epidemiologists by a mob of about 3000 armed youths. This attack had undone “weeks of persistent and effective efforts to slow the outbreak” according to the WHO, who were overseeing the team.

Although not the worst affected country, Guinea has seen 1,876 deaths from 2,871 cases of Ebola, according to WHO. This is compared to Liberia and Sierra Leone with 3,605 and 3,145 deaths each from the effects of the Ebola virus.



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August 2, 2014

International team of scientists studies malaria drug resistance in Southeast Asia

International team of scientists studies malaria drug resistance in Southeast Asia

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

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Researchers from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States have mapped resistance of malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum to antimalarial drug artemisinin, mainly in Southeast Asia; correlated the resistance-causing mutation with slow parasite clearance; and found that prolonged therapy is highly effective against drug-resistant malaria. Their study was published in New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

The mutation considered in this study was identified last year as the molecular marker of artemisinin-resistant malaria. The current study found the mutation, located in the propeller domain of a Kelch protein on human chromosome 13, predicted when parasite clearance half-life would exceed five hours with 91.8% sensitivity and 88.4% specificity — usually correct in predicting both when long half-life would occur, and when it wouldn’t. OpenClinica web-based database was used for collection of data which was used to assess parasite clearance rate.

The study found a six-day treatment course effective against artemisinin-resistant malaria. The standard regimen consists of three-day dihydroartemisininpiperaquine treatment, and had a 25% rate of failure at day 42 in another recent study in Pailin, Cambodia. The prolonged regimen which includes three days of artesunate followed by three days of dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine, has shown 2% rate of failure at day 42 in the same area. Geometric mean of the half-life values were similar in two treatment groups of 60 patients each at each study site: one group received artesunate at a daily dose of 2 mg per patient’s body-weight kilogram and the other 4 mg per kilogram. Afterwards, patients at several study sites were followed for 42 days — Pailin, Cambodia; Attapeu, Laos; Binh Phuoc, Vietnam; Shwe Kyin, Myanmar; and Pingilikani, Kenya — and for 28 days in Kinshasa, DR Congo. The treatment regimens were highly effective at all the study sites.

Support for the study came from the UK Department for International Development, the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network, the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Also, the UK-based Wellcome Trust funds one of the participating research organizations, the MahidolOxford Tropical Medicine Research Programme.



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Leading Sierra Leone doctor dies in Ebola epidemic

Leading Sierra Leone doctor dies in Ebola epidemic

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

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Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan died from Ebola virus on Tuesday afternoon at Kailahun treatment centre in Sierra Leone. Dr. Khan led the response in Sierra Leone to the current Ebola outbreak there and treated dozens of patients. On Thursday, Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency, quarantining Ebola epicentres.

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus.
Image: Centers for Disease Control / Dr. Frederick Murphy.

The previous Tuesday, Minister of Health and Sanitation Miatta Kargbo announced Dr. Khan had contracted Ebola. Dr. Khan was moved to the Doctors Without Borders treatment center in Kailahun. A few days before he was admitted, three other senior staff in his department at the Kenema Government Hospital died from Ebola, including one, Nurse Mbalu Fonnie, with more than two decades’ experience with hemorrhagic fever.

September 11 of this year would have been Dr. Khan’s 40th birthday. In an interview on May 20, Dr. Khan told Awareness Times his department does the only testing south of the Sahara Desert for hemorrhagic fever such as Lassa and Ebola; a decade ago, these tests would have been done in Germany. He warned about the possibility of fresh outbreaks and necessity of engaging the public in health education and prevention.



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February 25, 2014

Researchers identify protein responsible for malaria transmission

Researchers identify protein responsible for malaria transmission

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes.

Two groups of researchers have independently identified the the protein responsible for malaria transmission to mosquitoes in studies published in journal Nature on Sunday.

The scientists found a direct relationship between the protein AP2-G’s with malaria gametocytes (male and female sexual forms) production, which is necessary for the transmission. Only the sexual forms infect mosquitoes and sexual reproduction occurs within the mosquito digestive tract.

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The initially separate teams looked at different plasmodium species. One, an international group led by Manuel Llinás of Penn State University in the US, examined Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for the worst form of human malarial infections; the other, led by UK scientists Oliver Billker from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England and Andy Waters from University of Glasgow in Scotland, looked at Plasmodium berghei, which infects rodents.

The P. falciparum group was kickstarted by research in Spain which found different organisms from the same strain with identical DNA had varying levels of AP2-G, with a strong correlation to their levels of sexual activity. The more AP2-G, the higher the rate of gametocyte formation. Researchers in England, later also drawn into the international team, analyzed the genomes of two mutated strains of P. falciparum which were both unable to form gametocytes. They found that the gene responsible for producing the AP2-G protein was the only common non-functioning gene.

The international team found found the AP2-G protein catalyzes the transmission by activating a relevant gene set in the parasite.

Women tend to their malaria-infected babies in Angola.
Image: USAID Africa.

Both teams confirmed the finding by gene therapy — both by adding the gene into a mutated strain and observing its ability to form gametocytes, and the other way round.

The parasites exist in a mosquito, then in a human, and require subsequent transmission for the parasite to spread. The transmission can only happen through gametocytes. The parasite triggers formation of the sexual gametocytes into the human’s circulatory system every two days in small quantities — not wasting energy on the process at the dry time of year when few mosquitoes are available — but little was known about the mechanism.

Dr. Oliver Billker commented on the potential of getting the transmission of malaria under control, unlike the existing focus on addressing the phrase causing the clinical symptoms, “Current drugs treat patients by killing the sexless form of the parasite in their blood — this is the detrimental stage of the malaria lifecycle that causes illness. However, it is now widely accepted that to eliminate malaria from an entire region, it will be equally important to kill the sexual forms that transmit the disease.”

The researchers hope to continue research toward drugs to prevent the transmission of the disease. The science was funded by groups including UK research councils, the Spanish government, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the European Commission.



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December 20, 2013

Public health officials advise on rising flu levels in Texas 2013/2014 season

Public health officials advise on rising flu levels in Texas 2013/2014 season

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Friday, December 20, 2013

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With current flu levels classified as “high” around the state, public health officials in Texas are encouraging citizens to seek vaccination. While many officials anticipated the flu season to peak in January, it has seemingly arrived much earlier in many parts of the state.

Health officials are urging citizens to seek care with their primary doctors, instead of their local hospital emergency rooms. They also recommend that everyone over age six months receive a flu vaccination. Thus far in December, over 450 cases of influenza have been reported in just a small portion of central Texas. Four recent deaths are being blamed on a flu-like illness. Other citizens are also showing signs of the same unknown condition, health officials said.

A nurse for a Texas school system noted during a media interview, “The number one prevention for the flu and cold is hand washing, [from] little kids [up to] big kids.” People suffering from the symptoms report fever, and coughing along with headaches and fatigue. One Texas man told Wikinews, “I had the flu just a few weeks ago. It was awful. I was miserable.”



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October 27, 2013

Slow start to winter 2013/2014 flu season in USA

Slow start to winter 2013/2014 flu season in USA

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

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With the United States flu season having started this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Weather Channel and Google‘s FluTrends websites report today low flu levels.

All three sources say there are no, or minimal, reports of the flu in Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. All three indicate Alabama has moderate flu levels. Google FluTrends indicates that at the same time last year, the flu level nationally was at moderate.

During the early part of the month, there were some concerns about the quality of flu reporting as the CDC and other government supported flu tracking organizations were impacted by the US government shutdown. Some non-profits and private organizations provided their own data during this period to fill the information void.

The CDC advises people to get a flu vaccine as the best means of avoiding getting the flu. Dr. Harry Leider, Chief Medical Officer for Walgreens, also is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine now before the flu becomes more widespread. For the 2013/2014 flu season in the US, there are two types of vaccines available. One provides immunization for two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus — specifically, an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus; an A(H3N2) virus, similar for antigenic purposes to cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011; and a virus similar to B/Massachusetts/2/2012. A second type of vaccine provides immunization for two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

Flu prevelance by state
State Google FluTrend CDC The Weather Channel
Alabama Moderate Local Localized
Alaska Low Sporadic
Arizona Low Sporadic Sporadic
Arkansas Low No activity
California Low Sporadic Sporadic
Colorado Low No activity
Connecticut Low Sporadic Sporadic
Delaware Low No activity
Florida Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Georgia Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Hawaii Low Sporadic
Idaho Low No activity
Illinois Moderate Sporadic
Indiana Low Sporadic Sporadic
Iowa Low Sporadic Sporadic
Kansas Moderate No activity
Kentucky Moderate No activity
Louisiana Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Maine Low No activity
Maryland Low No activity Sporadic
Massachusetts Low Sporadic Sporadic
Michigan Moderate Sporadic
Minnesota Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Mississippi Moderate Local Sporadic
Missouri Moderate No activity
Montana Low No activity
Nebraska Low Sporadic
Nevada Moderate Sporadic
New Hampshire Low No activity
New Jersey Low Sporadic Sporadic
New Mexico Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
New York Low Sporadic Sporadic
North Carolina Low No activity
North Dakota Low Sporadic Sporadic
Ohio Low Sporadic Sporadic
Oklahoma Moderate No activity
Oregon Low Sporadic
Pennsylvania Low Sporadic
Rhode Island Low No activity
South Carolina Low Local Localized
South Dakota Low No activity Sporadic
Tennessee Moderate No activity
Texas Moderate Sporadic Localized
Utah Low Sporadic Sporadic
Vermont Low No activity
Virginia Low No activity
Washington Low Sporadic Sporadic
West Virginia Low No activity
Wisconsin Low Sporadic Sporadic
Wyoming Low Sporadic Sporadic
District of Columbia Low Sporadic



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