Mosquitoes Pose Summer Threat

West nile virus death rates hit high in 2012 according to CDC data

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

(RxWiki News) As summer weather brings warmth and humidity, many parts of the country will soon be experiencing mosquito season. Though most mosquito bites are simply an itchy annoyance, there's still the possibility of serious illness.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that death rates from the West Nile virus, spread by mosquito bites, unfortunately reached new highs in 2012.

"Empty standing water around the home to keep mosquitos away."

Forty-eight states (all except Hawaii and Alaska) reported data on West Nile to the CDC. The CDC found a total of 5,674 reported cases of the virus in 2012, 286 of which resulted in deaths.

Around half of these cases (51 percent or 2,873 cases) were considered “neuroinvasive" – meaning they involved neurological conditions like meningitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or acute flaccid paralysis (paralysis or weakness of the muscles).

According to the CDC, “The numbers of neuroinvasive, non-neuroinvasive, and total West Nile virus disease cases reported in 2012 are the highest since 2003.”

Furthermore, the number of deaths seen in 2012 was the highest since 1999, when the first US West Nile cases were discovered.

Seven states (California, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas) accounted for 62 percent of all the US cases. Texas experienced the highest rate of infections, with 33 percent of all the cases.

The CDC urged people to take action to protect themselves from the disease by avoiding mosquito bites, especially as summer approaches. 

There are a variety of strategies to prevent bites, including wearing pants or long sleeves during dawn or dusk (mosquitoes are most active at these times) and keeping screens on doors and windows.

The CDC also recommends using insect repellents.

“Use repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and para-menthane-diol (PMD) because these repellents provide longer-lasting protection than other products,” reported the CDC, which also urged the public to follow the labels on these products.

“Last summer’s outbreak likely resulted from many factors, including higher-than-normal temperatures that influenced mosquito and bird abundance, the replication of the virus in its host mosquitoes, and interactions of birds and mosquitoes in hard-hit areas,” the CDC reported. “Because the factors that lead to West Nile virus disease outbreaks are complex, CDC cannot predict where and when they will occur.”

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 14, 2013
Last Updated:
August 13, 2013