CDC Warns Next Few Weeks Could Be The Worst For West Nile

From the AMA Morning Rounds, August 24, 2012:

ABC World News (8/23, story 2, 2:20, Sawyer) reported, “We have news tonight about the explosion of the West Nile virus. Now in 47 states, 41 have died. Look at this: one month ago, 29 reported cases. Tonight, more than 1,100. The CDC warned the next few weeks could be the worst.”

In a follow-on segment with medical editor Richard Besser, MD, ABC World News (8/23, story 3, 1:20, Sawyer) reported that for the majority of people with West Nile disease may be asymptomatic. However, people over the age of 50, “as well as people with high blood pressure or heart disease, are at more risk for severe disease.” Dr. Besser explained, “If you have flu-like symptoms, you can treat that at home,” but “if you develop confusion, stiff neck, weakness go see your doctor right away. They can give a medicine to decrease the swelling in the brain and reduce the amount of nerve damage.” Besser emphasized, however, that “for most people who have this infection, they won’t even know it; their body will fight it off and they’ll never get it again.”

Half Of West Nile Fatalities From Texas. The CBS Evening News (8/23, story 7, 0:20, Pelley) reported, “In Michigan, a second person has died from the West Nile virus. The nationwide death toll now stands at 42. More than half of the victims were in Texas. Aerial spraying to kill the mosquitoes that spread the virus began last night in Houston.”

West Nile Detected In Dead Birds In Santa Monica, California. The Los Angeles Times (8/24, Leu) “LA Now” blog reports, “Los Angeles County health officials have issued a warning to Santa Monica residents after discovering two dead birds that tested positive for West Nile virus.” So far, “a total of 56 dead birds infected with West Nile virus have been found in various parts of Los Angeles County.” For that reason, “health officials suggest people take precautions by eliminating sources of stagnant water that may be breeding grounds for mosquitoes, using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants.”

Cuts In Mosquito-Control Programs Frustrate Public Health Officials. The Detroit Free Press (8/24, Erb) reports that because “there is no vaccine against West Nile virus,” the “key to its control is killing mosquito larvae early in the year — before they become adults and feast on birds, spreading the virus even faster,” according to public health officials and entomologists who express frustration that “mosquito-control programs have been slashed in budget cuts over the years.” This leaves “it up to individuals to grab for the bug spray and dump stagnant water” at a time when West Nile cases across the US are soaring.