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West Nile Virus Continues Rampage, Could Reach 3,000 Cases, Exceed 260 Deaths

CDC says Texas by far worse situation, followed by South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Michigan

Important for seniors to use mosquito repellantAug. 30, 2012 – As of yesterday 1,590 cases of West Nile virus have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - the most ever reported through the last week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999. This includes 66 deaths and evidence of the disease has been reported in 48 states.

Over 45 percent of all cases have been reported from Texas and more than 70 percent of the cases are reported from just six states - Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan.

These numbers represent a 40 percent increase over last week’s report of 1,118 total cases, 629 neuroinvasive disease cases, and 41 deaths, according to the CDC. Forty-three states have reported at least one human case of West Nile virus disease.


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 “We have seen this trend in previous West Nile epidemics and so the increase we report today is not unexpected,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of the Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases at the CDC.

“In fact, we think the reported numbers that will get higher through October. We recognize that people are worried about the threat of West Nile virus this season. And we want to assure you that we're working closely with state and local governments to contain the outbreak.’

Peterson said he could not predict how many human cases to expect this year, but added, “we think the numbers may come close to or even exceed the total number reported in the epidemic years of 2002 and 2003, when about 3000 cases of neuroinvasive disease and more than 260 deaths were reported each year.’

He added, “From what we’ve seen in West Nile epidemics in previous years, we expect that this year’s epidemic will peak in mid- to late-August. The incidence of Infection may peak earlier in southern states than in northern ones.”

People age 50 and over appear to be the most vulnerable to this deadly disease. The CDC encourages everyone to use insect repellent outdoors and to wear long sleeves and pants. Empty stands water from items outside your home, such as gutters, kiddie pools and birdbaths.

   ● West Nile Virus Cases Reported to CDC as of Aug. 28, 2012 (by state)

What Can I Do to Prevent WNV?

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.

   ● When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.

   ● Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.

   ● Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

   ● Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

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.

>> Fact Sheet on West Nile Virus


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