The onset of summer and warm weather means the return of mosquitoes, which also means the threat of West Nile Virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its final 2012 data on the disease. "2012 ranked the second-highest year for recorded numbers of West Nile Virus disease since West Nile was first detected in the United States in 1999," says Dr. Stephanie Yendell with the CDC. Indeed, the 5,674 reported cases of the disease in the U.S. last year were the most since 2003. There were also 286 deaths from West Nile, which is the most on record for any year. Texas was among the hardest-hit states, with 33% of all West Nile cases coming from the Lone Star State.
West Nile Virus is borne by mosquitoes and can be carried by birds, but it is very hard to track or predict. Dr. Yendell says there are many factors that can impact the severity of a West Nile outbreak. "Those include the weather, numbers of birds that maintain the virus, numbers and types of mosquitoes that spread the virus, as well as human behavior." The disease is almost as unpredictable once you get it, as well. "We do not have a vaccine for West Nile Virus and there is no specific treatment," says Dr. Yendell. "So the key for this disease is preventing it.
Dr. Yendell says best way to prevent West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites. "Using insect repellent, putting screens on your home to keep mosquitoes out, removing standing water near your home, as well as supporting your community-level insect control programs." Other tips the CDC recommends are using air conditioning and wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when many mosquitoes are most active.