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West Nile virus at record high, CDC says

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Sept. 3, 2012

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Public health departments nationwide are trying to help control one of the largest West Nile virus outbreaks ever seen in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been 1,590 reported West Nile virus infections among people and 65 deaths due to the disease, according to Aug. 28 data from the CDC. Those are the highest numbers of West Nile disease cases reported in the U.S. for this time of year since the virus was detected in the country in 1999 (link).

About 75% of the current cases occurred in five states: Louisiana (73 human infections), Mississippi (79 infections), Oklahoma (68 infections), South Dakota (72 infections) and Texas (894 infections), according to the CDC and local health department data.

Texas also has the highest number of West Nile-related deaths, 34, as of Aug. 30, according to the Texas Dept. of State Health Services.

Thirty-eight states reported human cases of the illness as of Aug. 22.

It’s unclear why there is more virus activity this year. But the unusually mild winter, early spring and hot summer might have fostered conditions that are favorable to spread the illness, the CDC said.

To learn more about the virus, including how to diagnose and prevent it, the American Medical Association encourages physicians and the public to visit the JAMA Patient Page on West Nile (link).

Preventive measures include using insect repellent when outdoors, wearing long sleeves and pants if outside during dawn and dusk, repairing ripped screens and emptying standing water that is outside the home, the CDC said.

The agency is working closely with state and local public health departments to control the outbreak.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/09/03/hlbf0903.htm.

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