West Nile Virus OutbreakThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) have reported that this year’s outbreak of West Nile virus could be the largest ever. According to the CDC, more people have been diagnosed with West Nile virus at this point in 2012 then at the same point in any previous year since the disease was discovered in 1999. According to the latest numbers, nearly 1,600 people have been diagnosed with the virus and 61 people have died.

So far, the vast majority of cases have appeared in Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan. Almost 50% of the cases reported have come fromthe state of Texas where extreme heat and dry conditions make optimal breeding grounds for mosquitoes who carry the virus.

CDC Encourages People Not to Panic

While the number of people who have been infected with West Nile virus is concerning, the CDC insists that there is no reason to panic over the outbreak. Only about 20% of people who are bitten by mosquitoes infected with West Nile will show any signs of illness at all. Of those that do show symptoms, the most common are flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, and vomiting. The vast majority of cases do not require the attention of a doctor.

However, in certain cases the virus can infiltrate the immune system, sometimes resulting in death.  Additionally, some people have conditions that may put them at risk for developing more severe types of West Nile virus.  For example, people who are older, pregnant, or have conditions that lessen the strength of the immune system such as HIV may develop severe side effects and disease.

At this time, there is currently no cure for West Nile virus.

Take Precautions around Mosquitos

If you live in a state that has reported numerous cases of West Nile, take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The best way to avoid getting bit is staying inside during sunset and sunrise as these are the times when mosquitoes tend to be very active.  You should also remove stagnant water from your property as such water is known to attract mosquitoes.  Finally, the CDC says you should wear repellant when outdoors, and recommends sprays that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus.