While the presence of the West Nile virus has never been completely absent in present day America, a recent outbreak of the virus is showing that the United States is on track to have the worst year ever in terms of West Nile cases.
States around the nation are reporting more cases than usual, and at the center of these reports is the state of Texas, which has been a hotbed for the West Nile virus all summer long. Of the 381 reported cases of the illness in the sate, sixteen people have died from the virus in the Lone Star State alone.
The cause of this alarming spike in West Nile cases is expected to be a result of this past year’s weather conditions as mild winters around the country allowed the mosquito populations to build. This, accompanied by heavy spring rains, have caused the mosquito populations in many Southern states to spike, meaning higher chances for contact with the virus.
While the numbers reported from Texas are startling, this isn’t the only state to see the effects of the virus first hand. To date, 28 states have had reported cases of West Nile Virus. Louisiana has reported six West Nile-related deaths while states such as Arizona, Mississippi, California and South Dakota have all reported at least one death from the virus-carrying mosquitoes.
The most disheartening news about this latest epidemic is the expectation that the outbreak will worsen. Even with the tragic number of West Nile-related deaths growing by the day, experts expect that it will get worse going forward. The current climate conditions will continue to create ideal environments for the West Nile-bearing Culex pipiens mosquito to thrive.
To date, there is no proven way to prevent the spread of West Nile, especially considering the high numbers of individuals who have already contracted the virus. While there are currently reports of a few hundred cases of the virus in the United States, the numbers are actually much higher. About 80 percent of those who get the virus are never aware they have it, while 20-30 percent will get the West Nile fever; the most symptom of West Nile virus. An even smaller amount, about 1 percent of those infected, will develop the West Nile neuroinvasive disease, which is what leads to inflammation of the brain, spinal cord and in some cases death.