COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS (September 6, 2012) - News of the West Nile virus’ rampant spread across the U.S. has dominated the media in recent weeks. The number of U.S. cases rose 25 percent in the latest week, putting the 2012 outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease on track to be the most severe on record in the United States.
But it's already the worst year ever in Texas.
So far this year, 1,993 cases have been reported to federal health officials, up from 1,590 reported the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its weekly update of outbreak data. A total of 87 people have now died from the disease, compared with 66 reported one week ago.
The disease has been reported in people, birds or mosquitoes in 48 U.S. states, so far absent only in Alaska and Hawaii. About half of all human cases are in Texas, the CDC said.
The West Nile virus (WNV) belongs to a group of viruses known as flaviviruses, commonly found in Africa, West Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Flaviviruses are spread by insects, most often mosquitoes. The virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses, and other mammals. Since its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere in 1999, WNV has been classified as an emerging infectious disease in the U.S., as it has spread down the East Coast and to many Southern and Midwestern states. WNV occurs in late summer and early fall in temperate zones, but can occur year-round in southern climates.