Missouri has recorded its first death linked to the West Nile Virus in several years and usually counts onlyl a few cases every year. But the state health department says the West Nile should not be underestimated.
The state has never had more than 15 cases of the virus, and that was in 2008. Eight cases have been confirmed so far this year. But West Nile is causing concern throughout the country. Mosquitoes in 43 states have infected about two-thousand people who have become sick enough to seek help. More than 65 deaths have been reported nationally, the most in any year since the virus was first reported in 1999.
The health department’s coordinator of vector-borne diseases, Karen Yates, says it’s counter-intuitive to think that hot, dry weather increases the risks from West Nile mosquitoes. But that’s what’s been happening as small pools of water become stagnant and nutrient-laden. Those are conditions favorable to breeding mosquitoes that can carry the disease.
She says the low number of cases is deceiving because the virus is unpredictable.
Yates says most people who are exposed to the virus never know they have it. But a few develop flu-like symptoms. And for the very few, the virus attacks the nervous system.
She says the mosquitoes will remain a threat until a solid frost kills them.