Soaring Number of West Nile Virus Cases Set to Increase with Climate Change

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Common Dreams

Soaring Number of West Nile Virus Cases Set to Increase with Climate Change

by
Common Dreams staff

"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of the CDC's Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Division official. (photo: eyeweed / Flickr)

The U.S. is on track to suffer its worst West Nile Virus epidemic in years, the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) stated Wednesday.

And with climate change, we can expect an increasing number of this and other mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever.

The CDC says that people have been infected with West Nile Virus in 38 states this year.  At 1100 cases, it's three times as many as usual26 deaths have been attributed to the virus this year.  Texas has been the hardest hit, being the site of almost half of all the cases this year, and has unleashed an aeriel pesticide spraying program in an effort to combat the spread of the disease.

"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of the CDC's Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Division official.

"The peak of West Nile virus epidemics usually occurs in mid-August, but it takes a couple of weeks for people to get sick, go to the doctor and get reported," added  Petersen. "Thus we expect many more cases to occur."

The West Nile Virus infection rate is just going to get worse, a public health expert says.  As climate change brings warmer winters and hotter summers, David Dausey, a professor of public health at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., says it will “create a longer season for mosquitoes to breed and ideal conditions for them to survive.”

As Bryan Walsh wrote in Time Tuesday, we won't just be battling West Nile Virus either.  "[T]hanks to climate change, this isn’t likely to be the last time a disease we’d usually associate with the tropics makes its way into the U.S. The mosquito-borne dengue fever, which is endemic in much of the tropics, has been reported in south Texas, as well as the Florida Keys. The first U.S. case of  Chagas disease, a deadly Latin American infection transmitted by a cockroach-like bug that can feed on human blood, was reported last month. As the climate continues to warm worldwide, the zone of risk for all these diseases and even malaria could continue to expand."

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See the CDC's factsheet on West Nile Virus.

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