West Nile Virus Cases Hit Record, Death Toll Climbs To 66

The West Nile virus outbreak in the US has broken previous records for the disease in the country with a total of 1,590 cases and 66 deaths.

The new total is the highest human toll through late August since the disease was first discovered in the US in 1999, reports Reuters. The toll is also quickly increasing. Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, stated that, “We think the numbers will continue to rise.”

Last week’s numbers showed 1,118 cases and 41 deaths, meaning that the updated numbers show a 40 percent increase in the number of West Nile virus cases and a 61 percent increase in the death rate, although the numbers are short of the US all-time record in one year, which is 9,862 cases and 264 deaths, set in 2003.

In Texas alone, the number of cases has grown to 894 with 34 people dead, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, stated:

“It looks like it is going to be our worst year ever. As I look at the data, I’m not convinced we have peaked.”

All 48 contiguous states have seen cases of the West Nile virus in birds, mosquitoes, mammals, and people, and 43 states have seen at least one human case. ABC News notes that Dr. Peterson stated, “This increase is not unexpected. In fact, the total numbers will continue to rise through October.”

In light of the ongoing risk of West Nile virus, the CDC is encouraging everyone to protect themselves from mosquitoes. Peterson says to:

“Use insect repellents, wear long-sleeved clothing during dawn and dusk, install and repair window screens, use air-conditioners when possible, empty standing water, and support local community mosquito control programs.”

There is currently no vaccine to protect humans from the West Nile virus.