Virus update: West Nile still out for blood

West Nile virus is still out for blood.

Thus far, more than 85 deaths have resulted from the sickness and more than 1,000 cases of the most severe kind have been recorded. Human cases in 44 states have been reported and every state in the nation, save Alaska and Hawaii, has acknowledged pools of mosquitos carrying the disease within their borders. What’s worse, experts expect case counts to rise through the month of October.

"This week's numbers show about a 25 percent increase over last week," Lyle Petersen, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)'s division of vector-borne diseases, told WebMD. "The cases reported so far are the highest for the first week of September since the virus entered the U.S. in 1999. Unfortunately, those numbers will continue to go up. We know there will be additional deaths and, sadly, more folks diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease."

[See also: West Nile virus ventures southwest for biggest outbreak recorded since 2004]

Many states had yet to document their latest case numbers when the CDC arranged its figures for this past week. Once up-to-date tolls are tallied from the states with the highest case amounts — Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Michigan —the number of reported infections totals 2,044.

According to CDC statistics, 40 percent of the patients with confirmed West Nile virus are aged 60 or older; 22 percent are 50-59 years old and 4 percent of the inflicted are under 20 years of age.

Patients with the most severe infection of the West Nile virus — neuroinvasive, which can instill polio-like paralysis — should be prompted by their physician and families to seek hospital treatment immediately.

Medical officials claim that if the virus rates continue to climb as they have, this could be the worst season for the ailment the nation has ever experienced. Therefore, physicians should stress more than ever the importance of insect protection when outdoors, especially for senior patients.

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