CDC Reports Unusual Surge of West Nile Virus Across 18 States, Warns of Increased Neuroinvasive Cases

By Trish Svoboda

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the West Nile virus has been detected in at least 18 states, with experts warning of an unusually high circulation for this time of summer. As of June 25, human cases have been confirmed in seven states, including Kansas. In the remaining 11 states, the virus has been detected in mosquitoes, birds, or other animals.

Five of the human infections resulted in severe disease and were classified as neuroinvasive, potentially causing inflammation of the brain or the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This type of infection can lead to vision loss, disorientation, paralysis, or even coma. In rare cases, neuroinvasive infections can be fatal. There is no treatment or vaccine for West Nile virus; patients receive supportive care through fluids and pain medication. However, the virus often goes unnoticed, as approximately eight out of ten of those infected show no symptoms.

Those who do exhibit symptoms often experience fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. The CDC noted that these symptoms are frequently mistaken for other illnesses, leading to West Nile virus often going undiagnosed. Kate Fowlie, a press officer for the CDC, provided insight into the recent surge in cases, which is unusual for this time of year. Typically, the U.S. reports several hundred to several thousand cases annually, with most occurring in August and September.

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