It's the Worst Year for West Nile

CDC says cases of West Nile virus continue to climb

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) This year has seen what experts are calling one of the worst ever outbreaks of disease from the West Nile virus. The mosquito-borne disease shows no sign of slowing down through its peak season.

Across the United States, the number of illnesses and deaths continue to climb, jumping 40 percent since just last week. As of September 6, 1,993 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 87 people have died from the disease.

"Take precautions to avoid mosquito bites."

At least one case of West Nile has been reported in 48 states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. But the bulk of the illnesses have occurred in six states: Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Louisiana.

Of those states, Texas has been hit the hardest, by far. It claims nearly 45 percent of all reported cases.

Dallas made news earlier this month when the city aerially sprayed insecticide to reduce the population of mosquitos. Now, only 6 percent of mosquitos in North Texas carry West Nile.

But in Central Texas, 1 in 4 mosquitos have tested positive for West Nile, according to Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey.

That means that the danger is still very present. The historical peak of West Nile's seasonal occurrence has passed, but health officials expect the disease to continue infecting people until the first hard freeze in the fall.

The actual number of cases may be even higher than the number released by the CDC. “We expect that a great many cases of West Nile virus disease have not yet been reported, largely because of the lag between when a person gets sick and when the illness is reported,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.

Many people who get West Nile may not see a doctor. Symptoms are flu-like, and the mild form of the illness resolves itself. There is no treatment.

The severe form of West Nile is a neuroinvasive (infects the nerve cells) disease, and it can be deadly. The very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune symptoms are most at risk.

Dr. Petersen gave these tips to steer clear of infection:

  • Wear insect repellents when you go outdoors.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors.
  • Use air conditioning, if possible.
  • Empty standing water from items outside your home such as gutters, flowerpots, buckets, kiddie pools, and birdbaths.
  • Support your local community mosquito control programs.
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 7, 2012
Last Updated:
September 8, 2012