As climate change causes temperatures to rise, the United States is seeing a sharp increase in the spread of this deadly mosquito-borne disease. Experts predict that 2012 will be the worst West Nile outbreak on record.
Fox News reported that as of Tuesday, state health departments have reported at least 2,636 cases; 118 of them fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts state that this year’s record outbreak is a glimpse of what may be coming with upcoming climate changes and warmer temperatures, reports The Los Angeles Times. According to scientists, weather patterns are to blame for the increase in West Nile cases, expected to be the worst in the past 10 years.
Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. "We expect this increase to continue for the next several weeks, probably until October."
Causes of West Nile
Abnormally high temperatures are thought to be the cause of the outbreak, allowing for faster mosquito breeding and increasing the development rate of viruses in the mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the Inquisitr reports that, "the hot temperatures around the country have not only increased the number of mosquitoes who carry the West Nile Virus, but have also raised the likelihood of a new strain arising, which can cause the disease to spread faster."
Inquisitr reports that while there is no firm evidence as yet that a new strain has emerged, Catherine M. Brown and Dr. Algred Demaria Jr. of the Massachusetts Bureau of Infectious Disease point to an observed increase in dead birds. (Birds also catch the virus from mosquitoes, and infected birds can transmit it to the mosquitoes that bite them.)West Nile Focus
Officials report that six states are carrying more than 70% of the West Nile cases: Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Michigan, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Texas bears the brunt of the outbreak, with nearly 45% of the West Nile cases. CNN reports that there is a major focus on how Hurricane Isaac is affecting the outbreak and how Texas is managing its high number of cases.
Facts about West Nile
West Nile virus was first seen in the United States in 1999, when the virus, previously affecting people in Uganda, Algeria and Romania, arrived in New York City. Since then, no vaccine or effective treatment for the mosquito-borne illness has been developed.
Fox News reported that four out of five people who become infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms. But 20% are known to develop flu-like symptoms, with one in 150 of those affected developing severe symptoms: high fever, paralysis or neurological disorders.
The CDC has stated that mosquitoes contract the virus by eating on virus-infected birds, then biting and spreading the disease into human. West Nile cannot become transmissible through casual human contact, such as kissing or hugging. However, it has been known to spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants, or spreading from mother to baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding.