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West Nile cases double

West Nile cases double

NASHVILLE (AP) — Despite a much higher rate of infection among mosquito samples from Shelby County, there have been only eight human cases of West Nile virus documented so far this year statewide, a state health official said.
While that number is twice the total of all of last year’s confirmed cases, it doesn’t track the increased severity of infection found in mosquitoes.
Tennessee Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Abelardo Moncayo said Wednesday that more than 70 percent of the samples of mosquitoes trapped in Shelby County during August were positive for West Nile. That compared with a high of 30 percent last year.
“Those are percentages where you’d expect to see a lot more cases,” Moncoya said.
There have been no deaths reported among patients with the disease this year, but Moncayo expects to get reports of additional people who contract it.
“There are some who are still recovering,” he said.
While most of the cases have been in the southwestern corner of the state, the department has confirmed one case in Middle Tennessee and another in the upper part of East Tennessee.
The disease tends to peak in August and September.
The department urges people to be vigilant in applying insect repellant when going outdoors and says with the passing of summertime heat, there could be more human cases.
“People are more likely to be outside in nicer weather,” Moncoya explained.
Symptoms of West Nile mimic influenza: headache, fever and weakness.
When people exhibit such symptoms in summer and autumn months, the culprit is likely to be an insect-borne disease from mosquitoes or ticks, Moncoya said.
He credits an aggressive mosquito-spraying program in Shelby County with holding down the number of reported human cases locally.
And he will be watching for late reports from the field. The virus causes severe illness in less than 1 percent of human cases.
“There’s always a bit of a lag between when somebody gets the disease and when we hear about it,” he said.

Published in The Messenger 9.23.11

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