West Nile cases soar across US: 47 states, 41 deaths

Thursday, August 23, 2012
By Paul Martin

August 23, 2012

HEALTH – There’s been an alarming increase in the number of West Nile cases nationwide, with more than 1,100 reported, according to officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest CDC figures, released Wednesday, show that the national total for West Nile infections is three times as many as usually seen at this point in the year, officials said. Seventy-five percent of those cases were reported in five states — Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas — with about half in Texas. “We are in the midst of one of the worst West Nile virus outbreaks ever seen in the U.S.,” Lyle R. Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, said at a briefing. West Nile cases can be reported in various ways, as mild fevers or more serious diseases. Of the reported infections, at least 629 were of the more serious neuroinvasive diseases, Petersen said. Currently, he said, one of every 150 people infected with the virus develops the more serious illnesses, such as West Nile encephalitis, meningitis or poliomyelitis. Only 29 cases were reported a month ago. Now, the CDC is reporting 1,118 cases spread across 47 states, with 41 deaths. Seventy-five percent of the cases have been reported from five states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Illinois. Texas appears to be the hardest hit, with 586 reported cases in total. The death toll in Texas was 21 as of Wednesday, with Dallas County hit hardest, for a total of 270 cases and 11 deaths. No place is striking back harder against the West Nile virus than Texas, which has launched an aerial assault against mosquitoes despite objections from environmental groups. Overnight, planes carrying pesticides took to the skies dousing more than 63,000 acres of land in Dallas and Houston to battle the disease. More than half of those infected in Dallas County this year developed the more severe illnesses, an outbreak that drew the attention of President Obama, who was briefed by CDC officials Tuesday. Petersen said it was not clear whether the number of serious illnesses had increased or if reporting had improved. Those with serious forms of West Nile-related illnesses are usually admitted to hospitals, where officials test and report results. Those with the milder West Nile fever might not see a doctor or be tested. Only about 2 percent to 3 percent of such infections are reported, Petersen said. Those who become infected develop lifelong immunity, said Petersen, who added that he was infected in 2003 when he was bitten by a mosquito while jogging. –ABC News

Leave a Reply