Mosquitoes and a dragonfly fly around a lit bulb on a hot summer night at the Turquillas land in Osuna (Photo : Reuters)
"Officially, this is the worst week ever for West Nile in Texas," says L. Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The CDC reports that 1,993 and 87 deaths cases have been reported so far in 2012, indicating "the highest number of West Nile disease cases reported to CDC through the first week of September since WNV was first detected in 1999." 45 percent of all 2012 cases occurred in Texas.
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Texas has reported 35 deaths and 888 cases of WNV this year according to CDC data. Lakey, who spoke to NBC, says that his up-to-date figures show 1,013 cases and 40 deaths.
Just since last week there has been a 25 percent increase in WNV cases. On August 28, National figures showed 1,590 cases and 65 deaths. Out of the known infections, 54% were cases of neuroinvasive disease, which can cause serious illness or death. Although 48 states have reported West Nile infections, over 70 percent of all cases were found in Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan.
Dr. Lyle R. Peterson of the CDC expects "this increase to continue for the next several weeks, probably until October."
Those who develop severe disease run the risk of contracting West Nile encephalitis, meningitis, or West Nile poliomyelitis. Symptoms include: headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Typically, these symptoms do not afflict healthy people, with anyone over the age 50 or a weak immune system being at the highest risk for illness.
Although there are no vaccines or treatments available to combat WNV, it is important to take measures to prevent infection. Drain standing water, use repellent, wear long sleeves and pants at dusk and dawn, and place screens on doors and windows.