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Largest outbreak of West Nile virus in United States

largest-outbreak-of-west-nile-virus-in-united-states

According to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the recent West Nile virus outbreak is the largest ever seen in the United States.

West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. The disease was first detected in the United States in 1999 and today experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.

WNV is found in both temperate and tropical regions, having been first identified in the West Nile sub-region in the East African nation of Uganda in 1937.

It mainly infects birds, but is known to infect humans, horses, dogs, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits, crocodiles and alligators. The main route of human infection is through the bite of an infected mosquito. Approximately 80 percent of West Nile virus infections in humans are without any symptoms.

As of Tuesday, August 21, 2012 – 38 states had reported human infections with total of 1118 people infected. As of Wednesday, August 22, 42 deaths have been reported.

The director of the CDC’s Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Division, Dr. Lyle Petersen, told CNN that the peak of West Nile virus epidemics usually occurs in mid-August, but it takes a couple of weeks for people to get sick. He added that the reason for this unusually high number of infections is still unclear and that they expect many more cases to occur.

Texas has been the epicenter of outbreak; 75% of all cases of infection are reported Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. On August 17, 2012 Texas Department of State Health Services announced that there are 552 state-confirmed cases of West Nile illness so far this year, including 21 related deaths. In addition to aerial spraying efforts in Dallas County, state health officials urged people to protect themselves by using insect repellent and draining standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Here are the main things to know about West Nile virus according to CDC:

Prevention measures consist of community-based mosquito control programs that are able to reduce vector populations, personal protection measures to reduce the likelihood of being bitten by infected mosquitoes, and the underlying surveillance programs that characterize spatial/temporal patterns in risk that allow health and vector control agencies to target their interventions and resources.

The easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.

People over 50 at higher risk to get severe illness. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.

What Are the Symptoms of WNV?

  • Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
  • Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
  • No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

How does West Nile virus spread?

  • Infected Mosquitoes. Most often, WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.
  • Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child. In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
  • Not through touching. WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.

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3 Comments

  1. My mommy gave blood in Hamilton, ON, Canada last Wednesday and Thursday the Red Cross phoned her to let her know that she tested positive for the West Nile virus. At that time, she was not showing any symptoms, however, on the weekend she experienced flu-like symptoms. She had one mosquito bite on her leg.

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