States continue to report cases of West Nile Virus, from Boston to Montgomery County in Texas. Over 20 states have reported cases of the mosquito-borne disease since the start of 2018.
West Nile Virus Cases
This week, Boston mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile Virus, and it has also been found in mosquitoes from Montgomery County, Worcester, Auburn, and Norfolk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of the end of June, 23 states have reported cases of West Nile virus in mosquitoes, people, and birds in 2018.
So far, 10 human cases were reported to the agency, half of which were neuroinvasive, causing encephalitis or meningitis, while the other half were not. In order to prevent the spread of the disease, people are advised to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes by avoiding exposure during dusk and dawn when they are most active, wearing loose clothing that covers the skin, using insect repellent with DEET, and to make sure that there is no standing water were the mosquitoes can breed.
West Nile Virus
West Nile virus is an infectious disease that was first introduced to the United States in 1999. Eight out of 10 people who get West Nile Virus do not get any symptoms at all, while others may experience mild symptoms such as headache, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pains, and rashes. Those who experience such symptoms recover completely, but the fatigue and weakness may persist for weeks or even months.
In about 1 in 150 cases, however, the infected may develop a severe illness that may affect the central nervous system, causing inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Symptoms of severe West Nile virus may include high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions, tremors, vision loss, muscle weakness, numbness, coma, and paralysis.
Such severe illness may occur in people of any age, but those who are most at risk are those who are over 60 years old, as well as people with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and hypertension. One in 10 people who experience severe West Nile virus die.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus, and the medications given to patients are for the relief of symptoms.
West Nile Virus And Birds
Apart from being detected in mosquitoes and humans, West Nile virus has also been detected in several bird species. Just like in humans, the birds get infected through the bite of an infected mosquito and may pass it onto other mosquitoes that bite them.
Unfortunately, they can also pass the virus onto predators or scavengers that eat the dead infected birds. Since its first discovery in the United States in 1999, West Nile virus has been found in over 300 species of birds, most of which survive the disease, apart from crows and jays that frequently fall ill and die from it.
There is no evidence that humans can contract West Nile virus from handling infected birds, alive or dead, but people are advised to avoid bare-handed contact when handling a dead animal.