West Nile Virus

Essay by stumpy6182College, UndergraduateA, May 2013

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Multi-Dimensional Factors Associated with the 2012 West Nile Virus Epidemic in Texas

West Nile Virus is an arbovirus that is transmitted mainly by Culex mosquitos. WNV transmission is maintained through zoonotic cycles in birds which are the reservoir hosts for the disease. The majority of those infected with WNV (about 80%) will be asymptomatic and show no signs of the disease. The other 20% of the individuals infected with WNV experience symptoms of West Nile Fever. These symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, malaise, nausea and vomiting. In rare cases (about 1%), victims will experience West Nile neuroinvasive disease where the virus infects the central nervous system and results in meningitis and encephalitis. Oftentimes, this more serious type of infection will result in death. WNV has been around globally for hundreds of years, but was only recently introduced into the United States in New York in 1999. Since its introduction, the US has experienced a relatively constant number of cases over the years until 2012.

In 2012, WNV have spiked dramatically. 48 of the 50 states have reported WNV infections either in humans or animals, and 5245 cases of WNV in humans has marked the highest number of WNV in the history of the U.S. (CDC, 2012). The majority of the cases this year can be attributed to 6 states with Texas being the leading contributor (about 1/3 of the total number of cases). Of the 1782 cases reported in Texas, 82 patients died. This number also represents the highest incidence of death in Texas with the next closest number of deaths being 17 in 2007 (DSHS, 2012). The spike in WNV cases has been the center of debate among health professionals, scientists, and entomologists as they strive to find possible explanations for the outbreak. Much of the...