CHICAGO — Life’s a picnic this year for the small, sneaky mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and pose a deadly risk to humans. Hot, dry weather in the Midwest has created the perfect conditions in still-damp ditches and underground storm water basins where the Culex mosquito breeds.
Where there’s water in the drought-plagued Midwest, it’s stagnant water — the Culex mosquito’s favorite breeding habitat. The heat also speeds up the mosquito’s life cycle, which means more breeding and more mosquitoes, and accelerates the West Nile virus replication process.
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Texas are reporting higher rates of infected mosquitoes compared with past years. More infected mosquitoes mean a higher risk for humans. Minnesota, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas are reporting earlier-than-usual cases of human infection.
“I am quite concerned we may be facing one of our most severe seasons for West Nile virus since it arrived in our state in 2002,” said Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist in Oklahoma, which has had eight confirmed human cases of West Nile infection, with seven of those being the serious, neuroinvasive form of the disease.
West Nile virus is a cyclical disease in humans, appearing in the summer and disappearing in the winter as carrier mosquitoes die off and hibernate.
Website to list Medal of Honor award winners
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says a new Pentagon website will list the names of those Americans who have earned the Medal of Honor since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Panetta made the announcement Wednesday at a House hearing. He said the website could be expanded to include other recipients of military valor awards and medals.
The move is in response to a Supreme Court ruling last month. The court invalidated a law that made it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other military decorations. The justices ruled that the Stolen Valor Act of 2006 infringed upon free speech.
Panetta said he hoped the website will protect the honor of those who served in battle.
NATO: Bomb kills 2 service members in Afghanistan
KABUL — NATO says a bomb has killed two of its service members in southern Afghanistan.
The statement from the U.S.-led coalition did not provide the nationalities of the two nor any other details of the Thursday attack.
The deaths bring the number of foreign troops killed this month to at least 38, and the total for this year to at least 253.
Twitter briefly down across much of planet
LONDON — People around the world briefly experienced problems accessing Twitter on Thursday, a day before the 2012 Olympic Games are expected to cause a spike in use of the micro-blogging site.
About three hours after the San Francisco-based company first acknowledged the problem by saying its engineers were “currently working to resolve the issue,” Twitter said in a statement that the “site issue” had been resolved.
It did not go into further detail on what caused the glitch — the second time in just over a month that the site has been hit by problems.
Visitors to the site on Thursday had been greeted with a half-formed message saying that “Twitter is currently down.” The fields where a reason for the outage and a deadline for restoring service were apparently meant to go were filled with computer code.
Sluggishness or outages were reported for more than an hour in countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some users were able to post updates through their phones or third-party applications. Tweets about the Olympic torch, which is wending its way through central London, still poured in, albeit far more slowly than earlier in the day.