The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
says there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of West Nile virus cases in the United States since last week. The virus was first reported in the U.S. in 1999.
According to the CDC, this is the worst West Nile virus outbreak ever in the United States, with 1,590 cases reported so far in 2012. Sixty-six deaths have been reported so far.
Except for Alaska and Hawaii, every state has found evidence of the virus in mosquitoes, birds or people. More than 70 percent of the cases come from just six states - South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan and Texas, which has had the highest number of cases.
Dr. David Lakey, who is commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said he expects the numbers to rise in the coming days.
“At this time as I look at the data I am not convinced that we have peaked. We may have plateaued, but I am not convinced we have peaked. We are watching very closely and intensifying our efforts to make sure that we control the disease, especially when we see an increase in the disease,”
The potentially deadly virus often attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms range from mild flu-like aches and pains, to high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions, vision loss, paralysis, and even coma. Doctors say those age 50 and over are at the highest risk.
CDC officials suggest that the number of cases will not peak until October.
Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, director of the division of vector-borne infectious diseases at the CDC, says the arrival of Hurricane Isaac may actually help contain the outbreak. He explains that such storms disturb the ecology of the area and interrupt the transmission cycle between birds and mosquitoes.