What is West Nile Virus and How Many Have Died in the United States?
July 9, 2015
Deep inside human DNA is a fear of insect bites. Though the origin is not completely known, humans have been conditioned to assume that pest bites are more serious than a few itchy bumps, and one of the likely reasons is how easy it is for some diseases to spread from pest to people – most notably those of the Mosquito.
But here in the United States, we’re safe from most insect related diseases. With the exception of allergic reactions, there are not many viruses that pass from insect to human that we need to worry about. Most are limited to regions of the world with more serious pest problems. However, the one exception of that rule is the West Nile virus – a disease that has seen a huge increase in numbers, and may be deadly for those that catch it.
What is West Nile?
West Nile virus is an uncommon but potentially deadly virus spread to humans almost exclusively by mosquitoes. It was first noted in Africa in the early 1900s, but did not appear in the United States until 1999. Since then, West Nile has spread across most of the rest of the United States, and is considered to be one of the most common and dangerous diseases spread from insects to humans.
West Nile symptoms can vary between mild and severe. Some people experience symptoms that are similar to the flu. But some people experience much more severe symptoms that can cause neurological issues, and in rare cases lead to death.
Death Rates from West Nile Virus
Since 1999, over 1000 people have died after being infected with West Nile virus. The mortality rate among reported cases is estimated to be about 5%, meaning that 5% of all those that contract West Nile are at risk for death, and more for serious illness.
There is some good news: West Nile virus may be under reported. Researchers have found that some people with West Nile appear to show no symptoms, indicating that the overall numbers might be under reported and the mortality rate may be closer to 1%.
Nevertheless, that number is still much higher than the death rate of other diseases, like the flu, which has a mortality rate of .015%. West Nile virus is a serious illness, which is why eliminating mosquitoes should be your priority.
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