"Weird weather events" could be a major reason behind what could be "the largest epidemic ever" of West Nile virus, Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of vector-borne infections at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention told the New York Times.
The CDC, which acts as the nation's stethoscope and medical statistician, has tracked more potentially deadly cases of West Nile virus to date this year than in any previous year, according to the Times -- 122 cases so far, mostly in California and the Dakotas, compared to 33 last year at this time. The mosquito-borne illness is an example of an invasive disease.
It first appeared in the Western Hemisphere in New York in 1999. It has since spread across the country and is now considered endemic to the United States. Primarily a wildlife disease spread from bird to mosquito and back, it can also spread to humans bit by infected mosquitoes, and environmental conditions strongly influence the intensity of human disease outbreaks.
While many infected show no symptoms, or develop a flu-like illness that is not life-threatening, a small percentage of patients will develop a serious swelling of the brain called encephalitus, which can lead to permanent disability or death. There is no treatment. This year, of 42 brain infections, three patients have died, according to the Times.
The heat waves in the West, and persistent flooding in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and surrounding states have contributed to conditions that could make this the worst year yet for illness from West Nile virus, Petersen told the Times. To read more, read this New York Times story.
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