August 17, 2012

West Nile Virus

Dallas is dealing with an outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease.

Maggie: Jordan Conner needs her mom’s help to get from one end of the room to the other…

“You have to carry her from the back.”

Maggie: …all because of a mosquito bite.

Jordan has West Nile meningoencephalitis. It is a rare form of West Nile virus that affects her brain. At any moment she could lose consciousness or control of her limbs.

Jordan lives near Dallas, Texas, the center of the West Nile outbreak, with 10 -15 new confirmed human cases every day. And while Jordan’s case is unusual, the West Nile virus carried by mosquitos has already caused at least 26 deaths so far this year. The mayor of Dallas has declared a state of emergency. The city and surrounding areas are being sprayed with pesticides from the air to kill mosquitos – the first time since 1966.

West Nile is a virus that is found mainly in birds. Mosquitos then bite a bird with the disease, and now carry the West Nile virus. The bugs can then bite and transfer the virus to a human.

Now, 80% of those humans infected show no symptoms at all. Twenty percent show symptoms like a fever, body aches, or vomiting. And of those people who show symptoms, about 1 in 150 develop a severe illness that could be life-threatening.

West Nile virus is nothing new. Since 1999, more than 30,000 people in the United States have gotten sick with West Nile virus.

The West Nile virus isn’t just hitting Texas. It has been detected in at least 43 states, and the Centers for Disease Control is tracking nearly 700 cases so far in 2012. That is the highest ever reported to the CDC by mid-August. And officials warn we are only just entering the height of mosquito season.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. We’re talking about a third-world virus in a 21st century country. And since 1999, we still don’t have medication for humans.”

Maggie: The best thing you can do? Follow some simple precautions. Wear long sleeves and pants when mosquitos are out in full force – normally early and late in the day. Avoid areas where there are lots of mosquitos – places like swamps and lakes. Keep mosquitos out of the house and always wear insect repellant when you are outside.

Follow these tips and you can still enjoy your final few days of the summer sun outside!

Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.


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