Another week, another record. Last week, we noted that the U.S. hit its all-time high number of cases of West Nile to that point in the year. Since then, the number of cases his risen 40 percent — and the number of deaths 61 percent.
A total of 1,590 cases of West Nile virus, including 66 deaths, were reported through late August this year in the United States, the highest human toll reported by that point in the calendar since the mosquito-borne disease was first detected in the country in 1999, health officials said on Wednesday.
The toll is increasing quickly and “we think the numbers will continue to rise,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.
Through last week, 1,118 cases and 41 deaths had been reported. The updated figures represent a 40 percent increase in the number of cases and a 61 percent spike in the number of deaths, but are short of the all-time record for a full year: 9,862 cases and 264 deaths in 2003.
See? Still something to shoot for this year!
Public health experts and entomologists are baffled about why 2012 is such a big year for West Nile. But Petersen said a U.S. heat wave has been an important contributing factor.
“Higher temperatures foster faster reproduction of both the mosquito and the virus,” said Tony Goldberg, professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has studied urban outbreaks of West Nile since shortly after the virus arrived in the Midwest. …
“As we keep getting more climate extremes,” he said, “there will be more years with many more cases of West Nile.”
And something to shoot for in the future. Our kids will look back on 2012 not as a peak, but a valley.
Good night, everyone!