West Nile virus ravages United States
Mosquito-borne illness cases reach record level
When most Americans step outside for a summer evening stroll, they’re not thinking of that walk around the neighborhood eventually leading to paralysis, tremors and vision loss. But this year a record number of Americans have experienced symptoms associated with West Nile virus, a cureless virus transmitted by mosquito bites that can cause these symptoms.
Of the 1,993 reported cases, 87 have resulted in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Once infected, a person may develop flu-like symptoms including fever, muscle aches and fatigue. Because the symptoms so closely parallel the flu, the actual number of cases each year is likely much higher than the recorded number. Less than one percent of the time, the virus attacks the brain and can leave long-lasting or permanent cognitive damage. Patients 50 and older are most likely to suffer these extreme symptoms, but similar complications can also develop in otherwise healthy individuals.
Almost half of the cases this year have been in Texas. Virginia, on the other hand, has experienced just nine reported cases, and one death Tuesday. So far there have been no confirmed cases in Albemarle County — a single case in neighboring Rockingham County is the closest to the University so far.
Although the ultimate toll of this outbreak will be unknown for quite some time, this year is likely to be the worst the United States have ever seen, said Lyle Peterson, director of Vector-Borne diseases for the CDC.
“If things continue on their trajectory … this will be amongst the biggest or the biggest outbreak that we have experienced in the United States,” Peterson said in a press release.
To slow the spread of the virus, mosquitoes’ breeding grounds — standing water in buckets, trash cans or stagnant ponds — must be eliminated.