Across the country, West Nile virus cases are up four times over what is normal for this time of year. The Center for Disease Control reports it’s one of the largest outbreaks ever. And in the Carolinas, the numbers are up and expected to rise as the mosquito season continues.
Experts can’t put a finger on exactly why there are so many cases this year. But they speculate that the mild winter, early spring, and hot summer have stimulated mosquito breeding. And thus increased the spread of the virus.
Nationally, there are close to 1,200 cases. That’s way up from the recent average of 300 cases this time of year. In South Carolina, 15 cases have been reported. Now, that may not sound like a lot until you consider that last year there were zero . And in 2010, only two were reported.
“Sometimes when you have such heightened awareness, you can see more cases reported, because there is more testing being done, says Jodi Reber with the North Carolina Division of Public Health. She says physicians will often report to local and state health departments when they’ve tested their patients who show symptoms of West Nile. Those symptoms can be flu-like--fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea, and even vomiting.
But the virus has also commonly been detected when labs test blood from donation drives.
Reber says there’s only been one confirmed case of the West Nile virus in North Carolina.
“The message needs to go out that we’ve validated that it’s here, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cases come, and people just need to start protecting themselves,” she says.
Officials recommend using mosquito repellent, wearing sleeves, and draining any standing water on their property.