Dallas, Texas has declared a state of emergency over West Nile virus and the virus has been at a U.S. high since 2004. This is the worst outbreak in years with 10 deaths and 200 illnesses in Dallas alone. In 2012, there have been almost 700 confirmed cases of West Nile virus with 25 percent of that in Dallas county.
The city will start aerial spraying, approved by Mayor Mike Rawlings. He said to CBS News about the spraying, "I want to take the politics out of it. I want to say this is my responsibility. I will take the heat for it." This is measure that hasn't been done since 1966. Though officials ensure that the spraying is safe for humans, some people are worried about the effects on at-risk patients.
Mike Raupp from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture said of the aerial spraying to CBS This Morning," "Basically, in this case, I think the benefits of these sprays far, far outweigh the risk. We've got people dying in Texas. We've got 16 people in the state now, we have more than 700 cases nationwide. The risks of being harmed by these pesticides are not at all unreasonable. The materials they are using are the same pesticides you would use to spray the vegetables in the garden or some of the pests that invade your home. These are relatively safe materials."
But it's not just Dallas that is having issues, Louisiana has reported at least 68 cases and six deaths of West Nile while Mississippi has reported approximately 59 cases and one death. This is the biggest amount of West Nile virus infections in the U.S. since 2004.
Dr. Marc Fischer, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Arboviral Diseases Branch said US News Health, "Seasonal outbreak occurs every year but so far this year the activity seems to be greater and a little earlier than in recent years."
What is West Nile?
West Nile virus is a disease primarily spread by mosquitoes and symptoms include everything from fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache and more and can be mild to extremely severe, even life threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 80 percent of people who are infected develop no or few symptoms. 20 percent get mild symptoms and less than 1 percent will develop a neurological illness such as meningitis or encephalitis.
Most people with mild West Nile will recover on their own without treatment, but the CDC recommends that anyone develops symptoms to see a doctor immediately.
How do you protect yourself from it?
The most important thing is to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes. Always wearing insect repellent when outside and wearing long sleeves and pants helps. Don't leave water outside in open containers like flower pots, kiddie pools and buckets because they attract mosquitoes. Air conditioning also helps and installing door screens and windows could also help keep mosquitoes at bay.