We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

West Nile Season Off to the Worst Start Ever in the U.S.

By Sophie Bushwick
Aug 25, 2012 1:16 AMNov 20, 2019 1:51 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Every summer since West Nile virus

’s first U.S. appearance in 1999, Americans have listened to warnings about the mosquito-borne disease and its potentially deadly effects, a severe flu-like fever sometimes accompanied by an even more dangerous brain inflammation. Because the disease---and its attendant worries---recur every year, it’s easy to tune out West Nile coverage. But the Center for Disease Control has announced

that this year’s outbreak is shaping up to be one of America’s worst, with the current count at 1,118 cases and 41 deaths. About half the reports come from a single state: Texas. Although these numbers pale next to the record high of almost 10,000 cases reported in 2003, no other season in U.S. history has seen this many West Nile cases by only the third week in August. The CDC expects more cases to arise through the end of September, though they can’t predict exactly how many. After all, 98 percent of the current cases were reported in just the past month. Only in Texas, the state suffering the most from West Nile, can health officials state conclusively that this year’s outbreak will be the worst in the state’s history. Why is the virus so extensive this year? It’s difficult to pin down the exact cause because West Nile’s spread depends on multiple factors including weather, the number of birds and mosquitoes carrying and spreading the virus, and human interventions. But because the virus and its mosquito carriers thrive in hot weather

, a mild winter

and a summer of record-breaking heat

could be to blame for this intense West Nile season.

Image courtesy of CDC / Jim Gathany / Wikimedia Commons

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.