U.S. health officials reported Wednesday three times the usual number of West Nile cases for this time of year and one expert told the Associated Press it was “one of the largest” outbreaks since the virus appeared in this country in 1999.
So far, 1,118 illnesses have been reported, about half of them in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kentucky has reported few cases.
In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. There have also been 41 deaths this year. Most infections are usually reported in August and September, so it’s too early to say how bad this year will end up, CDC officials said.
AP reports that West Nile virus peaked in 2002 and 2003, when severe illnesses reached nearly 3,000 and deaths surpassed 260.
The best way to prevent West Nile disease, say experts, is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellents, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies. Also, empty standing water from buckets, kiddie pools and other places to discourage breeding. (Read more)