NEW YORK (AP) -- West Nile virus is suspected in the deaths of an 81-year-old man on Long Island and a 65-year-old man in Michigan, health officials said Saturday.
If confirmed, the two cases would bring the number of deaths from the disease this year to 18.
So far this year, more than 370 human cases of West Nile have been confirmed in the country's worst out break since the virus first appeared here in 1999. Seven people died in New York that year, and the virus has since spread throughout the East and Midwest.
Officials in Louisiana, the hardest hit state with 171 case and eight deaths this year, expressed hope Friday that new cases there were tapering off. The 24 new human cases it reported this week is less than half the increase of the week before.
"We may be beginning the end," state Health and Hospitals Secretary David Hood said. But he emphasized, "We still need to keep doing all the things we've done for the last two months."
People have been diagnosed with West Nile in 20 states and the District of Columbia, but nearly 80 percent of the cases this year are in three states: Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday denied requests from Mississippi and Louisiana to fight the virus, saying assistance was best left to health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has given Louisiana $3.4 million and other help.
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