Lately there has been a lot of coverage about West Nile virus in the news. In fact, for a variety of different factors this is shaping up to potentially be the worst outbreak since the disease peaked in the US in 2003.
Right now in early September we are in the mid-season of West Nile activity and new cases will continue to be reported in the coming weeks. While this is an important disease to be aware of there are some very basic steps that can be taken to protect you from infection. Widespread panic is completely unnecessary as preventative measures are effective despite the lack of approved treatments for this disease.
Keep reading for an overview of the diseases caused by West Nile virus, where it is, and how to disrupt transmission of the virus to prevent infection.
Recently, there have been a rash of stories in the news covering a mysterious disease that has appeared in Cambodia, killing over 50 children in the last few months. Currently, there is evidence that this disease is caused by enterovirus 71, a causative agent of hand, foot, mouth disease. What is interesting is that these children are presenting with symptoms more severe than foot-and-mouth that include encephalitis, high fever, difficulty breathing, and eventual destruction of the alveoli of the lungs leading to death. This is an unusual presentation of enterovirus infection, as this usually causes a mild illness that does not result in hospitalization. However, EV71 has been known to cause neurological disease in the past and would explain the symptoms experienced by patients in this outbreak.