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West Nile Cases Triple in One Week

Virus Quickly Spreading Westward, Worst May Be Yet to Come
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Virus Spreading Westward continued...

For example, last year at this time Colorado had yet to report a single case of West Nile virus infection in humans. But this year, Colorado has reported nearly four times as many cases of West Nile virus infection in humans than any other state with at least 72 reported cases, including at least one death. Texas has had the second highest number of cases with 29 cases so far and at least two deaths. Alabama makes up the last of the states to have a West Nile virus death reported so far this year.

Gerberding says that state agencies may have more up-to-date figures on the numbers of cases and deaths from West Nile virus and that the CDC's numbers will be updated as more confirmed reports come in.

According to the CDC, cases of West Nile virus infection in humans have currently been reported in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Reports of new cases in other states, including Georgia, are also currently being investigated.

In 2002, there were 4,156 reported cases and 284 deaths in the U.S. due to illness caused by the West Nile virus.

How to Protect Yourself from West Nile Virus

Officials say now is the time for the public to protect themselves from becoming infected with the West Nile virus. Last year, there was a large spike in West Nile cases in the second week of August, and 65% of the cases that occurred in the entire season occurred in the following six weeks.

"We are starting the epidemic with more cases and more areas affected than last year and if the same pattern proves to hold true we could be seeing an even greater number of affected people," says Gerberding. "The time for people to really be conscientious about taking the steps necessary to protect themselves from mosquito bites is right now and to continue those activities throughout the rest of the summer season."

Those steps include:

  • Use an insect repellent with DEET when outdoors in areas where there are mosquitoes.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks whenever possible outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing so spraying clothing with insect repellent can offer additional protection.
  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn) and take extra precautions during these times.
  • Mosquito-proof your home by using screens on windows and emptying any items on the property that hold standing water where mosquitoes can breed, like birdbaths, flower pots, old tires, cans and clogged rain gutters.
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