West Nile Virus Gets Worse and Travels Nationwide

According to The Daily Beast, and beastly it can be, "The West Nile virus simply won't go away".

By Judy Feldman on August 18, 2012 2:15 PM EDT

Mosquito
West Nile Virus Gets Worse and Travels Nationwide Now (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Wherever you Go, Think Bug Repellent

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes to humans, birds, horses and other mammals. Typically, West Nile virus infection causes a mild, flu-like illness that may not even cause symptoms. However,  particularly among persons 50 years and older, it can trigger serious neurological diseases such as encephalitis, meningitis, or acute flaccid paralysis. West Nile virus first appeared in North America in 1999, in New York City. Since then, the virus has spread across the country, and according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, has infected more than 30,000 people. About 13,000 of the individuals who have been reported as having West Nile virus since 1999 have been seriously ill, and more than 1,200 have died." For more information see the CDC site, here

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Texas  is the worst state for victims so far. Dallas, and also Houston are said to be currently in "imminent threat of emergency". Aerial spraying has started in Dallas, and the State health commissioner David Lakey has asked North Texas mayors if they also want their cities sprayed from the air.

Forty-three states have had cases of West Nile including Louisiana; Oklahoma; Mississippi; Arizona, California, South Dakota,and Illinois. Nationwide there have been at least 693 cases and 28 deaths, reported CDC on Tuesday, and that's a huge increase -- and  a sudden increase from the 390 cases and eight deaths reported just last week. To see state by state counts of infections, from mild to severe to causing death, see here. 

And what is worse, is that it is going to get worse. David Dausey, a professor of public health at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa, told USANews that  climate change means warmer winters, milder springs and hotter summers, all of which "create a longer season for mosquitoes to breed and ideal conditions for them to survive." That will mean more West Nile and, public health workers worry, other mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever, he added.

Many states are simply reporting more cases than usual. Marc Fischer, a specialist in mosquito-borne diseases with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Fort Collins, Colorado told USANews.  "There's been a lot of mosquito activity in most states" this year, he said.

Why is it getting worse so quickly?

The mild winter we experienced and then spring rains allow mosquito populations to multiply quickly. "Heat and scant rainfall are creating stagnant water pools, which make great breeding grounds", says Michael Merchant, an entomologist at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Dallas, as reported by USANews.

Trouble is, some fear that if the mosquitos don't get you the insecticide might. But, according to The Environmental Protection Agency, the insecticide often used in spraying by the airplanes to prevent the spread of West Nile, called Duet, poses no significant threat to humans or animals -- though it is toxic to fish and other types of aquatic life.

How can you prevent it? Spray!

Repellent is the most effective and safe way to avoid the virus. To see a video at CBS, with more details protecting yourself from the viral bug, go here.  Other useful links about repellents and pesticides include:  Using Insect Repellents Safely (EPA);  Insect Repellent Use and Safety (CDC); and here, at the National Pesticide Information Center.

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