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SCVNews.com | West Nile Virus Cases Soaring | 08-22-2012
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| Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012

Asian tiger mosquito

If there’s ever been a reason to refresh pet water and clean out the pools – kiddie-size of otherwise – the soaring number of West Nile Virus cases is a good one. Officials from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention are calling the recent virus outbreak as the largest ever seen in the United States.

In Los Angeles County, four or five cases (depending on the time of each report) have been reported, but there have been no deaths. Of the 34 cases reported in California, there have been 10 incidents in Stanislaus County, six in Kern County, five in Fresno County and at least four in Los Angeles County.

KHTS reported Friday that there were 693 cases of West Nile Virus reported in humans, with 26 deaths attributed to the virus. Today, the CDC announced that the numbers have increased significantly and are the highest since the virus’s detection in 1999.

As of August 21, 47 states have reported a total of 1,118 human infections and 41 deaths. The highest incidence has been in Texas, where 537 cases – nearly half – were reported, followed by alarming numbers from Mississippi (79), Louisiana (73), South Dakota (72) and Oklahoma (68).

In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. In 2002, incidents of West Nile Virus peaked with nearly 3,000 victims and more than 260 deaths. Because it is relatively early in the season for West Nile detection and incidents appear to be increasing, officials are alarmed.

“We’re in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, who oversees the CDC’s mosquito-borne illness programs.

With weather conditions starting out mild and ending up muggy, the virus easily spreads as infected mosquitoes breed and pass the illness on to humans.

One woman whose West Nile virus diagnosis was confirmed spoke to NBC4 this week. The Studio City woman blamed the inevitable mosquito bite on an algae-ridden swimming pool in a foreclosed house in their neighborhood. Another of the woman’s neighbors was showing symptoms of the virus and was awaiting confirmation of the diagnosis. Until the property is sold, which may have recently occurred, the neighbors are helpless – with the foreclosure, the county could only treat the health hazard, as the pool can only be drained by the private owner (which at that point was the bank)..

Only about one in five infected people get sick. One in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

“While most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to West Nile virus, some individuals may become infected with this disease and may experience symptoms that can last for months, or even years, such as fatigue, malaise and depression,” said Jonathen E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “I urge all residents to protect themselves and their family and friends from mosquito bites by getting rid of stagnant water around their homes; wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors and using a repellant when in mosquito-prone area, especially around dawn or dusk.”

West Nile virus is passed to people through the bite of an infected mosquito; mosquitoes obtain the virus by feeding on infected wild birds. If you find a dead bird, call (877) 968-2473 or log onto http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/disintro/htm.

Stagnant swimming pools or green pools should be reported to the Public Health Environmental Health Bureau at (626) 430-5200, or to a local vector control agency.

More about West Nile virus:

* WNV is not spread through person-to-person contact or directly from birds to humans.

* Most mosquitos do not carry the virus

* In most cases, people who are infected with West Nile virus never become sick, or have only very mild symptoms that include fever, headache, nausea, body aches and a mild skin rash.

* Symptoms of WNV could appear within three to 12 days after infection.

* Fewer than one in 150 people who are bitten by an infected mosquito become severely ill, according to the CDC. In these rare cases, the virus can cause encephalitis and even death.

* People over 50 years of age and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing severe symptoms, which may require hospitalization.

* Recovery from any infection with the virus can take months to years and some individuals may never fully recover.

* There is no specific treatment for this disease.

More tips to decrease the risk of infection

* Repellants containing DEET, picaridin or oil of eucalyptus, when used as labeled, are effective defenses against mosquitoes.

* Check window screens for holes

* Do not allow water to collect and stagnate in old tires, flowerpots, swimming pools, birdbaths, pet bowls or other containers. These are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

* Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, drain water from pool covers.

* Stock garden ponds with goldfish or other mosquito-eating fish. These eat mosquito eggs and larvae.

* Empty and wash birdbaths and wading pools weekly.

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