West Nile Virus Cases in US Reach 2,118

Health officials in the United States has reported that cases of infection due to West Nile virus has reached 2,118, an increase of 25% from last week. Records also indicate 92 deaths.

Lyle Petersen, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of vector-borne infectious diseases, said that cases will continue to rise “probably into October.”

“This is the highest number of cases reported to the CDC through the first week in September since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States,” Petersen added.

Human cases have been reported in 44 states, with Texas being hit the hardest with 1,013 cases and 40 deaths. Other states with high incidence of West Nile this year include South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Louisiana, all of which make up 70 percent of cases.

Human infections have increased this year in part because of the mild winter, early spring, and hot summer, creating perfect conditions for mosquitoes to breed. Mosquitoes carry the virus from the infected birds it feeds on.

Source: USA Today

Texas Researchers Find Possible West Nile Cure

Although an effective cure for the West Nile Virus has not yet been found, researchers may have found a potential way to kill the virus. Researchers at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in El Paso have discovered a way to kill the West Nile Virus with ribonucleic acid or RNA. Dr. Manjunath Swamy and his team have even found a way to use the idea to work in mice.

Dr. Swamy and his team developed a process that make use of saRNA, molecules that target a certain part involved in DNA replication and signal the DNA not to recreate that certain part. This means that WNV infected strands of DNA would no longer replicate. This will allow the infected strands to die out as the cells grow old.

According to Dr. Swamy, “Essentially what we do is use short double stranded RNA’s and deploy them so they attack the West Nile genome and destroy them. We are trying to use this technology as an anti-viral agent and what we find is that RNA’s work greatly in suppressing virus multiplication.”

What Dr. Swamy and his team are working on may not be considered a vaccine. It won’t prevent people from ever getting infected by the disease. It is a means to kill the West Nile Virus once a person gets infected. Dr. Swamy is hoping that clinical trials for their potential WNV treatment will commence by next year. But even then, getting FDA approval would take at least 5 years more at the earliest before the treatment gets to the WNV infected patients.  And even then, there would be no guarantee that the medicine may even work effectively.

Source: KLTV

West Nile Virus Concerns on Labor Day

While the whole United States celebrates the Labor Day holiday, the states located in the mainland worry about a spike in the number of West Nile virus infections as people go out to celebrate in the year that has witnessed record cases.

The disease has killed 66 people nationwide in 2012 as of this posting, while over 1,500 human cases have been reported.

“It’s a late summer disease so the fact the we’ve got so many cases this early and it’s so wide widespread does not bode well,” Joe Conlon of the American Mosquito Control Association said.

There are many ways to help protect you and your family from the potentially fatal West Nile virus. The most common is to apply the skin with insect repellent that contains DEET. Health officials also warn people about going out during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend emptying containers that may collect rainwater and sprinkler water.

Source: KPRC-TV

Natural Remedies for West Nile Virus: Do They Work?

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to use products with DEET to protect your skin or you home against West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes, some people would rather use non-toxic and homemade bug repellents.

Suggestions vary from drinking a shot of vinegar to using Skin So Soft, a line of lotion made by Avon. However, do any of these natural remedies work?

Elmer Gray, a entomologist at University of Georgia, explains: “The alternative remedies are out there. We hear a lot about them, but when they’re compared in scientific studies and compared to DEET, Picaridin, and other approved products, they don’t hold up well.”

It turns out that while these alternative solutions may work, its effectiveness may only last for a short time or gets canceled out by many layers of sunscreen, absorption to the skin, dilution from sweat, and evaporation from wind or high temperatures.

If you insist on using natural mosquito repellents for you and your family, the CDC recommends Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, which you need to reapply on your skin every hour. Other alternative solutions include volatile plant oils like citronella, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, clove, and geranium oils.

Source: WXIA-TV, About.com

CDC Reports US States With Most West Nile Virus Cases

The West Nile Virus cases in the US have recently been showing record figures, numbers that have not been seen ever since the disease was first discovered in the country. In fact, 2012 is expected to be showing West Nile Virus cases at historical levels. This does not bode well for many states that have recently been showing an abnormal increase of disease cases that has also resulted to a number of deaths among its citizens.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC has provided a list of the states that has recently been affected by the West Nile Virus. A total of 48 states have so far reported WNV cases in their area, according to the CDC. Of the 48 states, Texas reported the most WNV cases for 2012 and counting, with a total of 733 cases reported, 30 of which resulted in deaths. South Dakota and Mississippi reported the second highest WNV cases with 98 each, with 1 death reported in South Dakota and 2 in Mississippi.

Oklahoma reported the next highest WNV cases reported with 80 which resulted in 5 deaths so far. Louisiana reported 73 WNV cases with 6 deaths. The state of Michigan had 71 cases of the West Nile Virus reported with 3 resulting in deaths. The state of California had 44 cases of WNV infections and 2 deaths so far while Ohio had 43 cases with no reported case of death yet. Rounding up the top 10 states with the most reported cases of WNV infections are Minnesota which reported 35 cases so far a 1 death and Nebraska with 26 cases and no reported death as a result of the WNV infection.

The CDC reported a total of 1,590 human cases of West Nile Virus infections, which had so far resulted in a total of 65 deaths. The totals provided for each state included both neuroinvasive and the non-neuroinvasive type of the said disease, the former of which is considered the fatal type as it leads to meningitis and encephalitis in some of those people infected. The numbers include WNV cases that are reported to the CDC as of August 28, 2012.

The recent total of reported cases is considered as the highest number of WNV infections in humans since the disease was first detected on US shores in 1999. The number is still expected to rise in many states as the summer season is yet to end. Many states have already made state of emergency announcements in their area, notably Texas, which have resulted in conducting aerial spraying activities in many affected areas in order to control mosquito population and prevent the recent epidemic of getting out of hand.

Source: CDC

Maryland Reports First West Nile Virus Death of 2012

Health officials of the State of Maryland has reported its first fatality from West Nile virus this year, as the rest of the United States has seen record-high cases.

The disease is spreading faster compared to previous years, partly due to a mild winter and several spring rains that allowed mosquitoes to
breed earlier.

Maryland officials did not reveal details about the victim such as age, gender, place of residence, or whether the victim had underlying medical conditions. They only indicated that the victim was an adult.

The state has had 13 human cases of West Nile since July 1, two of which were in the capital area. All patients were adults. Statistics of Maryland’s West Nile virus infections varied during the past years, from 19 in 2011, 23 in 2010, peaking in 2003 at 73 human cases.

Source: The Washington Post

Hurricane Isaac May Contribute To Increasing Mosquito, West Nile Virus Problem

People in the Gulf Coast states are now preparing for Hurricane Isaac as it makes landfall on several states in the area. Strong winds and heavy rains are pounding the affected states, notably Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Other nearby states may not bear the havoc that the storm may bring but would still experience the heavy rains in the area.

The storm is not considered to be as strong or as devastating as Hurricane Katrina, but it would still be strong enough to seriously affect the states to require evacuation for added safety for those living by the coast. But what may also be of concern is what happens after the storm. The heavy rains that Hurricane Isaac brings are expected to increase the mosquito populations in the affected areas. The standing water that will remain can easily become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can rapidly increase their numbers in a matter of weeks.

The increase of mosquito populations during this time may be of serious concern just as the West Nile virus threat is seen to be an increasing problem in many states, particularly in the state of Texas. And because of the recent rise in West Nile Virus cases to historical levels affecting many states, it is becoming increasingly important to reduce mosquito populations as a means to help curb down West Nile Virus infections. Hurricane Isaac may be expected to make it even worse.

For those who are living in the affected states of Hurricane Isaac as well as those seeing an increase of West Nile Virus cases, utmost care and precaution are advised, especially when it comes to trying to minimize the potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes that the heavy rains bring. Residents are advised to get rid of standing water in the area or at least avoid them from forming. People can use gravel and sand to fill in low areas where water from the rains may tend to collect. Proper drainage should be observed by checking out clogs on the gutters and water canals so that rainwater does not collect in certain areas around the home. Barrels and containers used to collect rainwater should be emptied frequently. Other areas such as kiddie pools, bird baths and kid’s sand boxes should also be properly covered so that they do not become a potential breeding area for mosquitoes.

US West Nile Virus Cases Up 40 Percent

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cases of West Nile virus were up 40% from last week. As of this posting, 1,590 individuals are infected, 66 of which were fatal.

Lyle Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, reiterated previous warnings that this year may yield the highest number of cases ever since the disease was first found in the United States in 1999.

“We think the numbers may come close to or even exceed the total number of cases reported in 2002 and 2003,” both of which were severe West Nile virus years, Petersen said during a conference call. More than 260 deaths were reported in those years.

Health officials expected the West Nile virus, which humans contracted through mosquito bites, to continue to peak into September and early October, when the disease typically reaches its peak.

Over 70% of the cases have been reported in six states, with Texas being the most infected at 45% followed by South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan.

Source: USA Today

How To Handle Dead Birds Suspected of West Nile Virus

It is a common misconception that all mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus. Fact is that mosquitoes naturally do not carry the virus; they get it from sucking the blood of birds infected with West Nile.

The presence of dead birds is a possible early warning sign that your area will have to deal with West Nile. If you have spotted a dead bird in your neighborhood, here are what you should do.

Report any dead birds – House sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, and crows are the most prominent birds that die from West Nile. If you have found one of these dead birds, take it to the local health department.

Take precaution when handling a dead bird – Wear gloves or cover your hands with plastic bags before touching the bird. Put it in double plastic bags.

Keep the dead bird preserved – Keep the bird refrigerated or put it on a container full of ice until submitted to the health department.

Source: The Neshoba Democrat

Biologist Says West Nile Virus May Be Treated With Antibiotics

With the West Nile virus still emerging as a serious threat in any US states today, more and more people are getting concerned of when effective treatments may be made available to address the ongoing threat. Unfortunately, doctors currently have no way of treating the West Nile virus effectively. A biologist has recently suggested that the West Nile virus may be treated using an antibiotic.

Biologist Terry Fredeking suggests that West Nile virus may possibly be treated effectively using an antibiotic that has been around for decades. Fredeking believes that the West Nile virus may be treated by an antibiotic called doxycycline, which has already been around for about four decades. It has been approved for use on a wide range of diseases, but not for the West Nile virus for an obvious lack of any study in the case. Fredeking’s company Antibody Systems of Hurst have funded a 3-year study looking into the effects of doxycycline on dengue fever. Dengue fever acts very similar to the West Nile virus. This gave the biologist a valid argument that doxycycline may also have a positive effect in treating West Nile virus infections.

Both dengue fever and West Nile virus are known to produce a condition known as cytokine storm, according to Fredeking. It causes the body’s immune system to overproduce cytokines, messengers that tell the immune system how to fight a particular infection. In a cytokine storm, overproduction of cytokines causes the body to produce lesser quality white blood cells and antibodies, which may further impact certain diseases. Doxycycline causes the immune system to ignore the order to overproduce, thereby making it able to have a better immune system. The body’s own immune system will help clear the virus while the aid antibiotic can help bring it down to normal levels.

Fredeking and his team based their assumption of the effects of doxycycline on the West Nile virus by the results that came out of their dengue fever study. The results showed that the death rate caused by the disease was halved. 100 out of the 200 dengue fever patients were given doxycycline. Twenty patients of those who didn’t take doxycycline died while only ten of those who did take the antibiotic died. This represents around a 50 percent survival rate for those who had dengue fever and who are taking doxycycline.

The researchers believe that the same effect can be seen when the antibiotic is used to treat West Nile virus infections. But this will still remain to be seen as it would take a study in order to evaluate and shed some light as to what effects doxycycline may have on the West Nile virus. Unfortunately, no study is yet underway to look into this matter.

Source: Star Telegram