Dear San Jose Mercury News,

This is not the most politic way to begin a story about the West Nile virus:

Like any new immigrant, the deadly West Nile virus became American almost immediately after landing on our shores—altering itself to fit in and then infecting a popular backyard bird to secure a firm foothold in its new home.

That is the startling conclusion of a decade-long analysis by UC Santa Cruz biologist Marm Kilpatrick, who explored the ecology of an infectious disease that has killed five Californians this summer and sickened another 197, up from 82 last year.

“Just like other invasive species, the virus starts adapting to its new environment,” Kilpatrick said.
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Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.