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Monday, September 8, 2014

Burners Warned of West Nile Virus

Posted By on Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 3:57 PM


The annual Burning Man festival got off to a rocky start this year, what with a desert rain storm that marooned would-be celebrants in Reno, and a 29 year-old woman killed after she fell underneath a bus at the Black Rock City camp.

Such calamities were enough to fuel superstitions among other participants — namely, that bad things happen in threes, as one blogger warned on the Burner community forum Burners.Me.

Indeed, the Nevada Health Department sent an advisory last week, warning that West Nile was found in mosquitoes caught near Gerlach, Nevada, about 14 miles away from the event. A spokeswoman says Burning Man staff confirmed the details last week, and dispatched a mass warning via its Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter, which reaches some 200,000 subscribers. 
Whether the infected mosquitoes could have reached Burners at Black Rock remains a point of contention. Washoe County Health District spokesman Phil Ulibarri says the only way Burners might have contracted the virus is by camping out in Gurlach en route to the Black Rock Desert. The Playa itself is pretty safe, he adds — "not a lot of mosquito activity going on out there."

Nonetheless, rumors quickly spread within the Burner community.

Participants' fears only mounted when a Burner named Pip Squeek reported, on Facebook, that she had contracted the virus, and that she was "near death" about 24 hours after returning from the Burn. 

Pip Squeek, who lives in Las Vegas, according to her Facebook profile, has not yet returned the Weekly's requests for comment. She assured, however, that she's contacted the Center for Disease Control.

Other Burners remain skeptical. As one commenter retorted on the Burners.Me forum, "the only virus people contract at [Burning Man] is herpes." Ouch.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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