West Nile Virus in the News in the SCR
This year’s West Nile virus outbreak is on track to be the biggest ever since the virus first appeared in the United States in 1999, U.S. health officials reported Wednesday.
As of the third week of August, there have been a total of 1,118 cases of West Nile virus in people in 38 states, including 41 deaths.
In Texas, which has been hardest hit by the epidemic, 586 cases have been reported with 21 deaths, said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Officials in Dallas County, Texas, began aerial spraying of insecticides overnight last Thursday. Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma have also been hit hard by West Nile virus this summer.
Experts do not know why this year’s outbreak is so much worse than previous years, but suspect it could be a confluence of factors, most notably hot weather. Generally speaking, 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus develop no or few symptoms, while 20 percent develop mild symptoms such as headache, joint pain, fever, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Less than 1 percent will develop neurological illnesses, such as encephalitis or meningitis, and develop paralysis or cognitive difficulties that can last for years, if not for life.
There are no specific treatments for West Nile virus; the greatest risk for infection with West Nile virus typically occurs from June through September, with cases peaking in mid-August.
The best way to protect yourself from West Nile virus is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, which can pick up the disease from infected birds. The CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself:
- Use insect repellents when outside.
- Wear long sleeves and pants from dawn to dusk.
- Don’t leave standing water outside in open containers, such as flowerpots, buckets and kiddie pools.
- Install or repair windows and door screens.
- Use air conditioning when possible.
More information at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_128510.html
See also MedlinePlus Health Topic page on West Nile Virus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/westnilevirus.html and CDC on West Nile Virus and Protecting Mosquito Bites: http://www.cdc.gov/features/StopMosquitoes/ .
[HealthDay News, August 22, 2012]