With four human cases of West Nile virus, the season has gotten off to a similar early start as a year ago. Federal health officials say more states have reported bird and animal infections this year.
Three human cases have been reported in Texas and one in South Carolina.
This year, 32 states have reported virus activity, as compared to 20 states this time last year. Like last year, CDC officials "anticipate an upswing" of virus activity this month and next month.
But unlike last year, there are new screening methods and diagnostic tests to protect the country from the virus.
Commercial West Nile virus tests are being used to determine if a person has been infected, although Doctor Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. says such tests must be confirmed by state health labs. Experimental screening tests are being used to detect the virus in donated blood.
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West Nile virus Facts
- The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.
- The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.
- The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.
How is the West Nile virus Spread?
- The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.
- A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.
- West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.
- Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.
- 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.
- 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.
- 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.
Symptoms of the Virus
- The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.
- Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.
- Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.
- Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home. Remove standing water from any item or area that can hold water. Standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes.
- Wear long and light colored clothing.
- Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.
- Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face; spray on clothing, as well. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin and clothing.
- Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.
- Stay inside at dawn and dusk because that is when mosquitoes are most active.
Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report