Summer Weather Ripe For West Nile Virus
The hot, dry weather seen across most of the country and the Midwest in particular has the created "perfect conditions" for the Culex mosquito -- the type that carries the West Nile virus -- to thrive.
While there are drought conditions across the Midwest, stagnant water, the mosquito's favorite breeding habitat, is abundant. In addition, the extreme heat speeds up the mosquito's life cycle, meaning they are breeding faster and more often.
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Texas have all reported higher rates of infected mosquitoes compared to past years. In addition, Oklahoma and Texas reported earlier-than-normal human infection. In total, 17 states have reported West Nile infected mosquitoes.
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"I am quite concerned we may be facing one of our most severe seasons for West Nile virus since it arrived in our state in 2002," Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist in Oklahoma, told CBS News. "I'm somewhat bracing myself for a rocky road ahead."
West Nile virus can cause three different infections -- an infection without symptoms, an infection with a mild fever, or a deadly infection that causes meningitis. Symptoms of infection include fever, drowsiness, loss of appetite, fatigue. In serious cases, West Nile virus can cause a coma.
Linn Haramis, an entomologist with the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the very young and the very old are at highest risk.
"The risk is high and people need to listen," she told CBS News. "This thing could put you in a wheelchair at age 60 for the rest of your life."
Experts say the best way to prevent an infection is to wear insect repellant containing DEET, avoid being outside between dusk and dawn and to eliminate standing water.
"We're still warning cities that they have to do mosquito control," Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist at the South Dakota Department of Health, told CBS News. "We don't want people to be fooled by the drought."
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