By Wesley Martin

The Escambia County Health Department announced this past Monday, October 1, that two additional human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) have been confirmed. According to the agency: the identification of these new cases brings the total number of diagnosed WNV cases to twelve for 2012. The risk of additional persons becoming infected with WNV from mosquito bites remains high. There have been about 50 confirmed cases state-wide.

Dr. John Lanza, director of the Escambia County Health Department, says the virus, known between 50 or 60 years, was originally discovered around the West Nile region in Africa.
The first reported case in the U.S. was in 1999.

“There were a number of cases and deaths in NYC attributable to the West Nile virus in 1999,” Lanza said. “We started our first cases in Florida a few years later in 2003.”

Lanza says the significance of this disease is that is mosquito-borne.

“The problem is that it can in some people produce a very severe debilitating disease. That’s about one in every 150 cases where it affects the neurological system. That’s why it’s of significance.”

Lanza said in the worse cases the disease starts slowly then progresses to a neurological issue producing paralysis, coma and in some, death.

When asked why the spike in reported cases this year, Lanza said “there have been theories such as a hot, wet summer, or maybe it was the fact that we had a short, not cold, winter – therefore it didn’t kill off mosquitos. But, nobody really knows for sure.”

Lanza suggests citizens follow the suggestions of the Escambia County Health Department to ward of mosquito bites.

“Go around your yard and make sure there aren’t any open containers that have water in it,” Lanza said. Pools need to be kept running and also well-chlorinated … and for personal protection, covering up with clothing and using insect repellent containing deet is important.”

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