Thursday, August 23, 2012

West Nile Virus Cases Soar in the US

The potentially deadly West Nile virus is at four times its usual level for this time of year, according to US officials.

Symptoms of the virus, carried by mosquitoes and first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, include fever, headache and body aches.

While most people recover in a matter of days, one in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

So far, 1,118 cases have been reported, about half of them in Texas. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August.

And cases seem to be accelerating with about 400 reported within the past week alone.

There have also been 41 deaths this year, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most infections are reported in August and September but this year more cases have been reported earlier in the cycle, said Dr Lyle Petersen, who oversees the CDC's mosquito-borne illness programmes.

"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," he said. Read More