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West Nile Outbreak Could Be Biggest Ever: CDC
Date:8/23/2012

s larger than seen previously, though it's not clear if this is simply because of the way cases are reported or if there is an actual increase in these more severe infections.

Generally speaking, 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus develop no or few symptoms, while 20 percent develop mild symptoms such as headache, joint pain, fever, skin rash and swollen lymph glands.

Less than 1 percent will develop neurological illnesses, such as encephalitis or meningitis, and develop paralysis or cognitive difficulties that can last for years, if not for life.

There are no specific treatments for West Nile virus; the greatest risk for infection with West Nile virus typically occurs from June through September, with cases peaking in mid-August.

And because reporting lags behind actual infections, "we expect many more cases to occur and the risk of West Nile infection will probably continue through the end of September," said Petersen.

Although most people with mild cases of West Nile virus will recover on their own, the CDC recommends that anyone who develops symptoms should see their doctor right away. The best way to protect yourself from West Nile virus is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, which can pick up the disease from infected birds. The CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Use insect repellents when outside.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants from dawn to dusk.
  • Don't leave standing water outside in open containers, such as flowerpots, buckets and kiddie pools.
  • Install or repair windows and door screens.
  • Use air conditioning when possible.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more information on West Nile virus.

SOURCES: Aug. 22, 2012, news conference with: Lyle Petersen, M.D., director, division
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