The West Nile outbreak in Texas this summer has become the most active and lethal in the state's history, the state health commissioner said Wednesday.Forty-three deaths have been confirmed, and the state's 1,040 reported cases are more than double the previous high. Of those, at least 510 were neuroinvasive West Nile illness, the most serious kind, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.In 2003, which previously had the most West Nile cases, Texas recorded 40 deaths and 439 neuroinvasive cases."As of this week, 2012 is now officially our worst year in the state of Texas for West Nile," Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the health services department, said at a briefing organized by U.S. health officials.The cases include 89 found in blood donated by people without symptoms.Neither Lakey nor Dr. Kyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could explain why Texas has been hit so hard.Petersen, a West Nile specialist, said agency scientists will look carefully at that question at the end of the season.As reported in the Star-Telegram on Sunday, Petersen was infected with the virus in 2003. "It can be horrible," he said. "I had horrible back and muscle pain. I couldn't eat. I was in bed for a week and sick for 10 days. It poleaxed me."More cases comingNationwide, Petersen said, the 1,993 cases of West Nile disease are the most reported to the CDC through the first week of September since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999.The national all-time high was 9,862 cases, reported in 2003. There have been 87 U.S. deaths this year; in 2003, 260 were reported. Cases have increased recently in the northern United States, and 44 states have reported at least one human infection, Petersen said.More than 70 percent of the cases this year come from Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Michigan and Louisiana, he said. All states except Alaska and Hawaii have found West Nile virus in people, birds or mosquitoes.The outbreak may have peaked in August, though new reports of infections may occur through October. "Even if West Nile virus transmission were to stop today, we would continue to see reports of cases for several weeks," Petersen said.North Texas impactLakey said state health officials are seeing signs that the outbreak may have peaked in the northern part of Texas, the hardest-hit area by far.Three North Texas counties -- Dallas, Tarrant and Denton -- account for 719 of the state's cases.Dallas County has had 13 deaths, Tarrant County has had five, and Denton two.Lakey said the numbers aren't increasing as quickly as before, an improvement he attributed to aerial spraying of insecticide.The state's analysis found that the infected mosquito population in areas of Dallas sprayed on consecutive nights decreased 93 percent; the infected mosquito population in areas not sprayed increased 10 to 20 percent.Aerial spraying sponsored by Denton County ended Sunday. The contractor has two weeks to test for mosquitoes in the areas sprayed and report to the Denton County Health Department.This report includes material from The Associated Press and the Star-Telegram archives.
West Nile virus symptoms
Most people who are infected with West Nile virus will not have any type of illness or may experience mild fever, headache and body aches before fully recovering. If illness were to occur, it would occur within 3 to 15 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Fever, headache and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.
In a very few individuals, particularly the elderly, the virus can affect brain tissue, cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), but more commonly presents as a febrile illness. Symptoms of encephalitis include rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck (in meningitis), muscle weakness, confusion and loss of consciousness
Source: Tarrant County Public Health Department
Preventing West Nile Virus
The Tarrant County Public Health Department recommends the 4Ds.
Drain standing water on your property so mosquitoes won't breed.
Use insect repellent that contains DEET.
Stay indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
Dress in long sleeves and pants and spray insect repellent on the clothes.