West Nile Virus: Record-Setting Number of Cases Summer 2012

People Age 50 and Over More Susceptible to Neuroinvasive Form of WNV

Yahoo Contributor Network

Public health officials and the general population in the United States are already looking at a record-setting number of West Nile virus, WNV, cases since 2003 and mosquito season hasn't come to its conclusion. As of Tuesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that 3,142 cases of WNV have been reported nationwide with 134 deaths among them.

Locations of West Nile Virus Infections

Each of the 48 continental states has reported at least one incidence of identifying the causative virus in humans, mosquitoes or birds, reports the CDC. Wherever the virus is found there is the potential for people to become infected, most often through the bite of a mosquito carrying the organism.

Two-thirds of the reported West Nile virus infections have come from seven states: California, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.

Who Is Most at Risk for West Nile Virus?

Anyone who becomes bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus may become infected, although 80 percent of people who are exposed to WNV will not become ill. Being outdoors or in a building without screens on windows or screens with holes increases your exposure to mosquitoes.

People age 50+ -- generally baby boomers and their seniors -- are more likely to develop serious, even life-threatening, symptoms if they become ill with West Nile virus, cautions the CDC . The data from two of the states hardest hit by WNV, Texas and Oklahoma , bear out this fact. People in this age group become ill more often with the neuroinvasive form of WNV than those of younger ages.

How to You Know if You're Infected with West Nile Virus

If you've been exposed to WNV, it may take three to 14 days before symptoms develop explains the CDC. There are two forms of illness from West Nile virus: non-neuroinvasive and neuroinvasive. U.S News & World Report advised that 52 percent of known WNV infections have been neuroinvasive and 48 percent have been non-neuroinvasive.

Symptoms of the non-neuroinvasive form of WNV include fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, headache, and sometimes swollen lymph glands and/or a rash on your chest, stomach and back. These symptoms may last from a few days to several weeks.

Symptoms of the neuroinvasive form of WNV include those listed above with the addition of severe headaches, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, muscle weakness, numbness, tremors, convulsions or coma. This form of the illness can last for several weeks and any neurological impairment may be permanent.

There is no known treatment for West Nile virus. If you have the symptoms of the non-neuroinvasive form of the illness, you may want to consult your health care provider who may prescribe treatments for symptom relief. If you begin to show signs of the neuroinvasive form of WNV, seek immediate medical attention.

Bottom Line

Although the exact reason that people age 50 and over are those more likely to experience the more severe effects and symptoms of West Nile virus, it seems logical to conclude that at least part of the rationale has to do with the fact that as we age, we are more likely to have chronic underlying conditions that prevent or inhibit our bodies' protective and healing systems to function optimally. Prevention of exposure to mosquitoes is the best way to avoid WNV and its potential complications.

Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.

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