West Nile Cases, Deaths Rise in 2006

The CDC reports a rise in deaths and illness due to West Nile virus this year.

As of Nov. 7, the CDC had received reports of 3,830 human cases of illness due to West Nile virus, including 119 deaths.

That’s up from 2,744 human cases, including 85 deaths, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, 2005.

Human cases of the virus were seen in 41 states and in Washington, D.C., according to the CDC.

No human cases of West Nile virus illness have been reported so far this year in Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, or Puerto Rico.

These statistics appear in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

About West Nile Virus

West Nilevirus can be spread by mosquitoes and through tainted blood transfusions or organ transplants. It can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

The chances of getting West Nile virus through blood transfusions or organ transplants are very slim, according to the CDC’s West Nile web site.

Most people don’t become seriously ill when infected with the virus; about 80% don’t show any symptoms.

But there’s no way to predict who will get sick; and people over 50 are more likely to become severely ill, says the CDC.

Symptoms of West Nile fever may include fever, headaches, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back.

Those symptoms don’t necessarily indicate West Nile virus; a doctor’s diagnosis is needed.

Symptoms may last a few days, but even healthy people have been sick with West Nile virus for several weeks, says the CDC.

Avoiding West Nile Virus

Summer is prime time for the mosquitoes that can carry the virus. But West Nile season can continue into the fall, according to the CDC.

Here are the CDC’s tips for avoiding infection from mosquitoes:

--When outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants use insect repellents containing a repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

--Stay inside at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

--Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

--Empty standing water in flower pots, buckets, and barrels. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

--Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly.

--Drill holes in the sides of tire swings so water can drain out.

--Keep kid’s wading pools empty and on their sides when not in use.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Nov. 10, 2006; vol 55: pp 1204-1205. CDC: “2006 West Nile Virus Activity in the United States (Reported to the CDC as of Nov. 7, 2006.” CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 16, 2005; vol 54: pp 1253-1256. WebMD Medical News: “More West Nile Deaths in 2006.” CDC: “West Nile Virus Fact Sheet.”