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West Nile Virus Cases Drastically Increase; People Warned To Protect Themselves

There have been numerous reports of people being infected by the West Nile virus. One man in Arizona and one person in Los Angeles County died from the virus. Senator Charles Schumer has requested that the Federal Government assist in the killing of mosquitos in New York State.


Mosquitoes that carry the virus. (Photo: Click Orlando)

Victims who are unaware they are infected may face serious complications. Noreen Hynes, Director of the Geographic Medicine Center of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University told USA TODAY  that the real important thing is people have to protect themselves. West Nile Viruses cases continue to rise across the country, experts advise people to be cautious when going outside approaches.

More About West Nile Virus

According to the World Health Organization, West Nile virus first appeared in a Ugandan woman in 1937 and has since spread throughout the world, first appearing in the United States in 1999. The virus is most commonly transmitted through mosquito bites, but contrary to popular belief, the virus originates in birds, according to the WHO. Mosquitoes only become infected with the virus after feeding on infected birds.

When they do so, the virus enters the salivary glands of the mosquito, where it then enters humans through mosquito bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of infected people show no signs of illness.

Symptoms for the 20% who experience them can range from headaches, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea to fatigue and weakness that can last for months. One in every 150 infected people develops severe illness affecting the central nervous system, which can cause disorientation, convulsions, paralysis, and comas.

According to the CDC, 10% of people who develop symptoms affecting their central nervous system die. There is no vaccine for West Nile but unlike COVID-19. It cannot be spread through human contact and people over the age of 60, as with most viral infections, are at a higher risk of developing worsening symptoms.

West Nile Cases

While cases are increasing, they are still nowhere near the numbers seen in 2019, when 2,647 people were infected and 167 died. The worst year on record was 2003 when 9,862 people were infected. The most deaths occurred in 2012, when 286 people, or 5% of those infected, died.

Since 1999, the West Nile virus has infected 52,944 Americans and killed 2,463 people in the United States. As of September 21, 479 cases had been reported, with 21 deaths. While the numbers aren’t as high as they have been in previous years, Hynes says August and September are peak months for the virus to spread.

According to Senator Schumer, this year is actually one of the worst mosquito seasons that we have had in recent memory as the virus has been found in all five boroughs of New York City. According to Hynes, it is possible that people being outside more this year than last due to the pandemic contributed to high virus numbers, but what really matters is that this year has been wetter than 2020.

Wetter weather can mean more mosquitoes as they lay their eggs and spend their first few days of life in water, as much of the East Coast experienced from Hurricane Ida.  She stated that they’ll do it in any amount of water. So, if you have standing water around your house, you should probably pour it out after the rain so that mosquitoes can’t lay their eggs.

Ways In  Keeping Yourself Safe

Mosquitoes are typically active from dusk to dawn, according to Hynes, so keep this in mind when spending time outside. Mosquito repellent is available for purchase, but you may be surprised to learn that mosquitoes can bite you through your clothing. Hynes said that we should think about pre-treating clothing with permethrin before going outside.

Permethrin, which can be applied to the outside of clothing and camping gear, is sold by various brands and stores. People who like to camp or go on hikes will find it extremely useful. Hynes explained putting your clothes whichever comes first will stay embedded in the fibers for six weeks or six piles of washing. Hynes furthermore advised wearing lighter-colored clothing because mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing and avoiding mosquito bites can help people prevent other diseases that can transmit like malaria.