According to US health officials, the USA is facing the worst West Nile Virus season for years. The number of cases reported so far this year are four times higher than the equivalent period in 2006. The good news is that the forecast for August and September is for colder than normal temperatures – this may significantly lower the number of cases.

West Nile Virus first hit the USA in 1999 in New York. It worked its way across the country rapidly.

Georgia has three times as many disease-transmitting mosquitoes this year, compared to 2006. Officials say a drought in the area probably set off the spike in numbers. So far no human cases of infection have been reported in Georgia.

A rapid rise in mosquito numbers early on in the year does not always signify that the rest of the year will be bad.

What Is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus (WNV) can be a serious disease. It is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America, peaking in the summer and persisting well into the fall (autumn).

The virus spreads to humans and other animals through the bite infected mosquitoes. The mosquito becomes infected when it feeds on infected birds. Less commonly, WNV can also spread through transfusions, transplants and mother-to-child (pregnancy or breastfeeding). It does not spread if you touch or kiss an infected person.

West Nile Virus Symptoms

Severe Symptoms – Extremely Rare

Only about 1 in every 150 infected people will develop severe illness. Severe illness may include:

— high fever
— neck stiffness
— stupor
— disorientation
— tremors
— convulsions
— muscle weakness
— vision loss
— numbness
— paralysis

The symptoms may continue for several weeks. Neurological effects are sometimes permanent.

Milder Symptoms – Affects 20% of Infected People

About 80% of infected people show no symptoms at all. Mild symptoms may include:

— Fever
— headache
— body aches
— nausea
— vomiting
— swollen lymph glands
— skin rash on the chest, stomach or back

Symptoms generally last from a few days, and less commonly a few weeks.

The following states have reported avian, animal or mosquito West Nile Virus infections (CDC ArboNET)

Arizona – Arkansas – California – Colorado – Connecticut – Delaware – Florida – Idaho – Illinois – Indiana – Kansas – Louisiana – Minnesota – Mississippi – Missouri – Nebraska – New Jersey – New Mexico – New York – North Dakota – Ohio – Oklahoma – Oregon – Pennsylvania – Puerto Rico – South Dakota – Tennessee – Texas – Utah – Virginia – and Wisconsin.

Human cases reported (CDC ArboNET)

Alabama – Arizona – Arkansas – California – Colorado – Idaho – Illinois – Iowa – Kansas – Minnesota – Mississippi – Nebraska – Nevada – North Dakota – South Dakota – Texas – Utah – Virginia – and Wyoming. Click here for a detailed breakdown.

Useful links from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Use Mosquito Repellent
Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Sites
Install or Repair Window and Door Screens
Support Community-Based Mosquito Control Programs

Written by: Christan Nordqvist