In the News: Largest U.S West Nile Virus Outbreak Ever

There are 18 people dead in Texas as the direct result of a West Nile virus outbreak in the U.S. The Dallas County Judge, Clay Jenkins, declared a public health emergency for the county on August 9, 2012, due to the West Nile virus outbreak in the area. The CDC is reporting that 47 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 1118 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 41 deaths. Of these, 629 (56%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 489 (44%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

The 1118 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the third week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Approximately 75 percent of the cases have been reported from 5 states (Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma) and almost half of all cases have been reported from Texas.  The New York Times reports that mosquito control programs are in place in Texas and New York to combat the spreading of the infection. Insecticides are being sprayed from the air or the ground.

There have been 14 cases of the West Nile virus here in Florida – all up north in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Duval County. Duval County health officials won’t say exactly where the infections occurred since there’s no proof of consistent clustering patterns. They’re advising everyone to take precautions and sending out mosquito control teams to spray abandon pools and other areas where mosquitoes might be breeding. With all this rain from Isaac we might have to be a bit more careful because from my window sill there’s a lot of raining going on with no end in sight. It has literally been raining for about 3 hours straight now. Yikes!

When I first heard of the West Nile Virus (WNV) I was just a teenager and boy did my imagination go wild with scenes of a worldwide death plague that would catch us all. I was absolutely terrified that I’d be infected and have a swarm of mosquitoes come attack me. Silly, I know. That’s how the media made me feel about it. I was terrified. There was good reason for me to be scared because this virus is serious.

What is the West Nile Virus?

The West Nile Virus is known as a flavivirus. Other flavivirus’s include the dengue virus, tick-borne encephalitis virus and yellow fever virus. The West Nile virus is transmitted by the bite from an infected mosquito or tick or through handling of infected animal carcasses, blood transfusion, child birth and consumption of unpasteurized milk products.  West Nile Virus is known to infect mosquitoes, birds, humans, ticks, alligators and crocodiles. Most of the WNV infections from 2012 stem from mosquito bites. The West Nile virus infection produces one of three different outcomes in humans.

  • The first is an asymptomatic infection
  • The second is a mild febrile syndrome termed West Nile fever
  • The third is a neuroinvasive disease termed West Nile meningitis or encephalitis

The West Nile virus can be deadly so in order to protect oneself it’s advised to wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and clothing that covers up your skin. In addition to wearing protective clothing, use mosquito repellant, and drain large pools of water around your house (Kiddy pools and swimming pools).  Also stay away from parks, swamps, forests, and anywhere that has wet and humid environments.

Sources:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flavivirus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Nile_virus

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/local/article/270113/3/More-West-Nile-cases-in-Florida-Duval-County-leading

 

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