The California Department of Public Health reported that in 2015 there were 40 counties across the state in which West Nile Virus had been detected. The populous list included Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Ventura, Fresno, and Los Angeles counties.
801 fatal cases throughout the state were reported in 2014, the highest count to date, up from 379 in 2013.
Though the virus passes an undetected infection cycle in most of the population for 1 percent of a highly sensitive group, the disease can be life threatening.
The Los Angeles Times reported that 28 deaths so far have been attributed to the virus, with the majority of those fatalities being senior citizens.
Definition of West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus is a disease transmitted primarily by arthropods, mosquitoes in this case. The disease was first detected in New York in 1999. Since then the disease has spread throughout the 48 continental states of the US, no cases having been detected in Alaska or Hawaii.
First discovered in 1937 in the African country of Uganda, the virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes that have bitten a contaminated bird or its carcass.
The disease can range in severity from mild or unnoticeable to severe or life threatening.
Symptoms may take up to 15 days to develop, though most people who have been infected do not display or are unaware of any symptoms.
Those with symptoms may report:
- Lymph Node Swelling
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Loss of Appetite
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Eye pain
- Serious infection
The Mayo Clinic further reports that for the 1 percent of the population which experience neurological infection that encephalitis, a swelling of the brain, or meningitis, a swelling of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord, may develop. Both can cause permanent brain damage and/or paralysis.
The symptoms in these cases include, in addition to those stated above:
- Stiff neck
- Stupor or confusion
- Tremors and convulsions
- Loss of coordination and sudden muscle weakness
- Partial paralysis
Certain health related factors predispose individuals to severe viral reactions.
These factors include:
- Age of the infected person, with those over the age of 50 being at highest age related risk.
- Compromised immune system functioning of the infected individual increases health risk factors.
- Those who spend a high percentage of their time outdoors have higher risk.
- July to September is the most active period for virus infection.
There are no treatments or vaccinations for the West Nile Virus. Prognosis is generally positive for those whose symptoms are detected early and receive supportive therapy for the complications of the virus.
West Nile Virus is a potentially life threatening illness which should be taken seriously by all senior citizens. Early symptom detection and complication management is often the deciding factor determining whether the disease ends in fatality.
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