Pack that repellent: West Nile virus spiking across the USA – USATODAY.comPosted: August 16, 2012
Texas is being hit the hardest by a surge in mosquito-borne West Nile virus cases, with Dallas’ mayor declaring a state of emergency and ordering the city’s first aerial spraying of insecticide in nearly five decades.
Yet 32 states have reported cases, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, and there have been at least 693 cases and 28 deaths nationwide, according to the CDC and state numbers released Tuesday. That’s up from 390 cases and eight deaths last week.
Most people who are infected with the West Nile virus, 70% to 80%, never know they have it. But 20% to 30% develop West Nile fever, with headaches, fever, joint pains, vomiting or diarrhea and rash.
A mild winter and ample spring rains allowed the mosquito population to build up early, while heat and scant rainfall are creating stagnant water pools ideal for breeding grounds.
And it’s going to get worse, David Dausey, a professor of public health at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., told USA TODAY. He says climate change means warmer winters, milder springs and hotter summers, all of which “create a longer season for mosquitoes to breed and ideal conditions for them to survive.” That will mean more West Nile and, public health workers worry, other mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever, Dausey says.
Fueled by longer rainy seasons, overpopulation and inadequate mosquito eradication efforts, dengue fever is on the upswing. At least 100 cases a year are reported among U.S. travelers, but dengue is often under-reported and misdiagnosed because it mimics other diseases. Although most patients recover within a week, a small percentage develop a more severe, sometimes fatal form.
The CDC notes that dengue is the most common cause of fever in travelers returning from the Caribbean, Central America, and South Central Asia.