News / Health

US Reports Record Outbreak of West Nile Virus

Carol Pearson
The United States has just had its worst year ever for West Nile virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  As of September 11, more than 2,500 cases have been reported and 118 people have died from the ailment.
 
West Nile virus is now endemic to the United States.  The seasonal epidemic flares up around June and continues until about October.
 
Dr. Lyle Peterson of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been more than 2,500 cases of the mosquito-born disease so far this year.  "The number of people who have become ill with West Nile virus disease continues to go up and we expect the virus to continue until October," he said.
 
The virus has been reported in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.  But Peterson, who heads the CDC’s division of vector-born infectious diseases, says most of the cases have occurred in just a handful of states. "Two-thirds of all cases have been reported from six states: Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Michigan and Oklahoma.  And 40 percent have been reported from Texas," he said.
 
The CDC reports that most people who contract the virus will have no symptoms, but some will go on to develop West Nile neuroinvasive disease.  In these cases, patients can have seizures, muscle weakness and paralysis.  The disease can be fatal. 
 
Peterson said the number of neuroinvasive cases is the highest to date since the virus was first detected in the United States 13 years ago. “Of the 2,636 cases, 1,405 or 53 percent were classified as neuroinvasive disease such as meningitis or encephalitis."  
"We consider the number of neuroinvasive disease to be the best indicator of the scope of the epidemic since these cases are most consistently reported," he said.
 
Although the number of cases is up 35 percent from last week, Peterson suggests the worst is over. "We've turned the corner on the epidemic.  West Nile virus outbreaks in the United States tend to peak in mid to late August," he said.
 
That's when days get shorter and mosquitos become less active.
 
While the West Nile virus will soon go dormant, scientists will be analyzing data to find out why it was so virulent in Texas. They will look at factors that include the number of mosquitos in an area, how fast the virus replicates in the mosquitos, and they'll also look at climate.
 
"There's a very complicated relationship of temperature and rainfall and all of these factors in West Nile virus transmission," said Peterson.
 
So far, scientists have not been able to figure out how those relationships help the virus spread.  Peterson says it may take several more years before they uncover the clues.  
 
In the meantime, there is no vaccine to protect people from this sometimes deadly illness.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid