6 Things to Know About West Nile Virusby Allison Tsai Editor
Outbreaks of West Nile virus occur every summer in the U.S. But some states are now experiencing them earlier and with greater than usual infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have compiled some facts and preventive steps to avoid infection.
The season peaks in mid-August
The U.S. season for infection lasts from June to September, with mid-August being the peak period. Certain areas see an outbreak that varies each year depending on weather and the number of mosquitos spreading the virus, as well as human behavior.
43 states have been affected this year
West Nile virus has been reported in 43 states in birds, mosquitos and people with 80 percent of the cases coming from Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The total count is 693 cases, with 26 deaths. This is a highest number through the third week of August since 1999.
You can take precautions to prevent infection
The following steps can be taken to prevent mosquito bites, which could transmit West Nile virus. Make sure to install or repair mosquito screens in windows and doors, and use air conditioning. Wear long sleeves and pants during dusk and dawn. Use insect repellent outdoors, and remove any standing water outside of your home.
Watch out for certain symptoms
The symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. These symptoms affect around 1 in 5 people; most people won't develop symptoms. However, a small percentage - less than 1 percent - can develop a serious neurological disease such as encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms appear three to 14 days after being bitten.
Certain people are at higher risk
The risk of serious complications and death from West Nile virus is greater for people over 50 years of age or who have certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and those who have had organ transplants.
There is no cure for West Nile virus
There are no vaccines or treatments currently able to prevent or cure West Nile virus. People with mild symptoms will typically recover fully after several weeks, while those with more severe illness may require hospitalization.