West Nile Virus outbreak on track to be worst ever

Jill Jensen

By Tyler Gieseke

This year’s West Nile Virus outbreak could be most deadly. 

With nationwide cases of severe West Nile Virus continuing to increase, the disease may claim more lives this year than ever before, the Star Tribune reported. 

Serious cases of West Nile Virus this year now total 1,405 nationwide, including 118 deaths from the disease, according to the Star Tribune. The majority of cases have occurred in Texas.   

Since it was first introduced to the U.S. in 1999, the worst year for the disease was 2002, when nearly 3,000 severe cases and 284 deaths were reported. This year the outbreak is on track to surpass these numbers, the Star Tribune said. 

Eight new cases were confirmed in Minnesota since late August, according to Minnesota Public Radio. So far this year, the state has seen 60 total cases with one fatality.

Unusually high temperatures may be one reason for the outbreak, according to Fox News, although the exact causes are still unclear.  A decline in the number of new cases is anticipated in Minnesota with the arrival of cooler weather, MPR said. Recent below-freezing temperatures in parts of the state are expected to lower the risk of contracting the disease in those areas. 

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that infections will continue to turn up through October, with severe illness and death reports continuing into the coming months, the Star Tribune said.  

West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, according to the CDC. To lower the risk of infection, officials recommend wear insect repellant and long pants and sleeves when going outside. 

Of all individuals that are infected with West Nile Virus, 4 of 5 will not exhibit any symptoms of the disease, according to the CDC. About one in 150 of those infected will develop severe symptoms such as high fever, disorientation, and convulsions.