The time for complacency and indifference to mosquito-born West Nile virus is over, argue two public health experts in a medical journal commentary.
Because there is no vaccine or effective treatment for West Nile Virus, a record year in reported cases calls for stepped up research and mosquito-eradication efforts, wrote Massachusetts state public health veterinarian Catherine M. Brown and Massachusetts state epidemiologist Dr. Alfred DeMaria, Jr. in the new issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
"While the public and professionals may have become somewhat complacent (about West Nile virus), 2012 is reminding us that perhaps we shouldn't have," they wrote.
The commentary is worth noting because Oregon was just added to the list of more than 40 states dealing with human West Nile virus cases so far in 2012 -- and this year is shaping up to be a record one, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
According to the CDC, only about one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. However, many cases go undetected. This year, about one in 23 confirmed cases have been fatal, according to the agency, or 87 fatalities among 1,993 reported cases as of Sept. 4.
With just two confirmed human cases so far this year -- both said to be recovering well -- Oregon hasn't been hard-hit compared to, say Texas, which has reported 888 cases, 35 of them fatal. However, a high rate of detection among mosquitoes in eastern Oregon has triggered an escalation of mosquito eradication by the North Morrow Vector Control District.
That's appropriate, according to the journal commentary, which says increased observations of bid mortality could indicate a new strain, though weather and increased mosquito populations could also be at fault. The authors call for for integrated research involving environmental science, veterinary and human medicine:
"In the meantime, mosquito prevention messages must be unrelenting, directed at personal protective behaviors (avoidance, repellents, clothing) and reduction of breeding sites. The public must be constantly prodded, with a balance of sensible precautions and serious awareness of the possibility for severe disease. Reduction of mosquitoes requires an integrated pest management approach, and we must come to grips with the sometimes controversial issue of pesticide application to kill adult mosquitoes, when benefit outweighs risk, and objectively determine efficacy under various conditions."
According to the CDC, as of Sept. 4 "The 1,993 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the first week in September since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999."
In Oregon, officials say mosquito activity may have peaked already, but recommend taking precautions:
-- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas. -- Make sure screen doors and windows fit tightly and are in good repair. -- Eliminate sources of standing water that breed mosquitoes, including watering troughs and clogged gutters. -- When outdoors at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active, protect yourself by using mosquito repellents containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picaridin.
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