West Nile Virus Protection Important as Case Number Rises

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COLUMBIA - West Nile virus infections are the worst this year in U.S. history, with over 1,000 cases so far this year, four times the normal number. There has only been one death this year from West Nile in Missouri. More than 50 percent of cases are in Texas, centralized in the Dallas metropolitan area. Other states with high reports of illness include Oklahoma, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

Health officials do not know exactly why there are more mosquitoes this year. They assume it's because of an early warm spring and extra hot summer. Mosquitoes get the virus from birds and then pass it along to people. The CDC reports only 1 in 150 infected people become sick enough for hospitalization. Most cases are mild with flu like symptoms.

The CDC has given tips for how to protect yourself and home against mosquitoes.

-Get rid of standing water. This includes in pet dishes, on top of pool covers and in potted plants. This will eliminate breeding.

-Check screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out and do not leave doors open.

-Wear bug repellent. This is especially important when going near water. The CDC says to use repellent with an active ingredient such as DEET. For camping or going to the lake over Labor Day weekend, make sure to bring bug repellent and wear long sleeves.

The CDC gives complete details about West Nile on their website.