UC Davis

How a mosquito bite led to paralysis — and turned this teacher's life upside down

How a mosquito bite led to paralysis — and turned this teacher's life upside down

The virus rode inside the salivary glands of the mosquito as the insect flew crosswind over northeast Los Angeles in search of a blood meal. It was looking for a bird — a finch, sparrow or robin, the preferred targets — and it found Missy Morris.

Receptors on its antennae quivered at the hint of carbon dioxide, alcohols and fatty acids wafting off her skin, and the warmth of her body. The mosquito turned up wind, a course correction that would change Morris’ life.

During summers, she and her husband, Andy May, often ate dinner or took their morning coffees into the backyard of their Los Feliz home. They visited Barnsdall Park for...

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