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West Nile Virus Widespread in U.S.

CDC Estimates 208,700 People May Have Been Infected With West Nile Virus in 2006
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 7, 2007 -- The CDC today reported that in 2006, West Nile virus killed at least 161 people and sickened more than 4,200 others.

Among those West Nile virus patients, nearly 1,500 developed serious brain or nervous system problems (meningitis, encephalitis, or paralysis that may or may not be temporary). That's a 14% increase in such cases since 2005 and the most reported since 2003.

Based on those figures, the CDC estimates that 208,700 people in the U.S. were infected with West Nile virus in 2006, most of whom didn't get sick.

In 2006 for the second year in a row, West Nile virus affected people in all 48 states in the continental U.S., notes the CDC.

So far in 2007, the CDC has already learned of three people in Mississippi who were sickened by West Nile virus. News reports also note a human case of West Nile virus in South Dakota and another in Iowa.

Summer is right around the corner, and that's prime time for mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus. So the CDC is encouraging people to brush up on their efforts to avoid West Nile virus.

Tips to Avoid West Nile Virus

Here are the CDC's tips on preventing West Nile virus infection:

  • Use mosquito repellents. Those containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus provide protection against mosquito bites, according to the CDC.
  • Avoid being outside when mosquitoes are most active (usually from dusk to dawn).
  • Make sure your window and door screens are intact so mosquitoes can't get inside.
  • To get rid of mosquito breeding grounds, empty standing water from flower pots, buckets, and barrels.
  • Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly.
  • Got a tire swing? Drill holes in it so water drains out.
  • Keep kids' wading pools empty and on their sides when not in use.

West Nile Virus Symptoms

West Nile virus usually doesn't cause severe illness. Most people who are infected don't show any symptoms.

Mild symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back. Those symptoms may last for a few days or several weeks.

Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis.

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