The Center for Disease Control reports that we are seeing one of the largest number of cases of West Nile Virus in our history, with 1118 cases so far, this year, as mosquito season is just starting. West Nile Virus: Alarming Increase In Cases This Summer
U.S. health officials reported Wednesday three times the usual number of West Nile cases for this time of year and one expert called it "one of the largest" outbreaks since the virus appeared in this country in 1999.Peak mosquito season usually runs from August to September. But, experts think the mild winter and early spring may have extended the breeding season, and allowed for greater spread this year.
So far, 1,118 illnesses have been reported, about half of them in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. There have also been 41 deaths this year.
"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC official.
Never before have so many illnesses been reported this early, said Petersen, who oversees the CDC's mosquito-borne illness programs.
Of those that get infected, 80% have no symptoms, and 20% have mild symptoms. "One in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis." According to a CNN report, I do not have the transcript of yet, 41 people have died so far this year. Last year 26 died.
CNN reports that this year Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Dakota are reporting the most cases. I remember a report here in Pennsylvania, last week, that 7 mosquitoes out of just over 1,000 collected in local traps were infected by the virus they get from feeding on birds.
CNN says the 4 D's of preventing mosquito born diseases are:
1) Use Deet
2) Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed.
3) Dress in long-sleeve shirts, pants, and wear light clothing.
4) Avoid going at at dawn and dusk.
Outbreaks such as this point out some of the disadvantages of not having universal health care coverage, as doctors recommend if you come down with flu-like symptoms, get a stiff neck, and feel disoriented to see your doctor immediately. But, people who are poor, and without health care, hesitate to see doctors and incur expenses they can not afford.
11:55 AM PT: Professor David Dausey raises the link to global warming and greater outbreaks of dengue fever, yellow fever, and malaria in tropical regions. He also recommends we use the strongest DEET formulations with are 30% to 50% concentrations.
And it's going to get worse, David Dausey, a professor of public health at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., told USA TODAY. He says 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, Dausey says.
Fueled by longer rainy seasons, overpopulation and inadequate mosquito eradication efforts, dengue fever is on the upswing. At least 100 cases a year are reported among U.S. travelers, but dengue is often under-reported and misdiagnosed because it mimics other diseases. Although most patients recover within a week, a small percentage develop a more severe, sometimes fatal form.
The CDC notes that dengue is the most common cause of fever in travelers returning from the Caribbean, Central America, and South Central Asia. Last year, just over 1 million cases were reported to the Pan American Health Organization, including 18,321 severe dengue cases and 716 deaths with outbreaks in Paraguay, Panama, Aruba, Bahamas, and Saint Lucia. Cases also have been confirmed in Florida, where officials are considering the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the problem.