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West Nile Virus Outbreak Plagues America

World News Desk

West Nile Virus Outbreak Plagues America

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More than 118 people have died and at least 2,636 have been infected across 48 states in what is on track to become the deadliest West Nile virus outbreak to strike the country in 13 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of infection in August was almost four times the normal average.

“I woke up with a headache like I have never come close to feeling before,” an infected man who spent a week at the hospital battling high fever and meningitis (inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) told Minnesota television station WDAY TV. “The pain was immense. I knew I was in trouble.”

The unusual 2012 weather has provided the prime conditions for illness. While it is mainly an avian disease, mosquitoes bite infected birds, then pass it on to humans and animals.

“Normally, the number of mosquitoes decreases greatly during the cold months, with a small proportion of mosquitoes surviving, or ‘overwintering,’” New Jersey Center for Public Health Preparedness director, Dr. George DiFerdinando Jr., said in a statement. “This year, with a mild winter, most mosquitos survived and so we’re seeing a bumper crop.”

About 75 percent of reported cases have occurred in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma, with the CDC stating that as many as 53 percent of the 1,405 documented cases “were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis)” while 1,231 or 47 percent were non-neuroinvasive, with less serious implications.

With such high rates of infection, the CDC believes that 2012 is poised to surpass 2003, the worst West Nile virus year in the nation’s history, during which a total of 9,862 people were infected and 264 died.

Texas is experiencing the brunt of the outbreak. The state has had at least 552 cases and 21 confirmed deaths, prompting intense fumigation operations in the Dallas region.

Voice of America reported, “The aerial and ground fumigation programs are blanketing around 1,400 square kilometers of the county, but don’t target all mosquitoes…Weekend rains halted some of the spraying efforts and left puddles of water where more mosquitoes can breed.”

And the outbreak is “far from over,” an article on WebMD stated. “Right now, the U.S. is in the middle of mosquito season—and nearly all West Nile virus infections come from mosquito bites. Case counts usually rise through September.”

Authorities are also concerned that the virus could make a comeback in Canada, where a person from Calgary, Alberta, was the first in the country to become infected with the virus in two years.


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