There have been 1,162 West Nile Virus cases in the U.S. in 2016, and the trend continues to increase. Although it is fall, mosquitoes are still active. Until now, there has been one mosquito-related death and few people presenting severe symptoms. Massachusetts and California have been recently affected.

Massachusetts state health officials urged people Friday to take precautions against mosquito bites after three new cases of the West Nile Virus were confirmed in Middlesex County. All three patients are over 70, and they were all in the county when they got infected with the virus.

West Nile Virus
The California Department of Public Health reported there had been 276 human cases of the virus in 28 Californian counties as of September 30. Image credit: The Plain Dealer.

Two of the three patients had to be hospitalized, and they are both women. The third patient is a man, who did not require to be treated in the hospital because his symptoms were not severe.

Massachusetts has reported eight new cases of West Nile Virus infection in 2016. Of the victims, six have been from Middlesex County and the other two from the Norfolk County. Last year, the state diagnosed ten people with the virus.

Regarding California state, the Inland region reported its first 2016 death related to the West Nile Virus. The resident, who died Friday, was from San Bernardino County, according to the California Department of Public Health West Nile website. 

Until now, San Bernardino County has had seven cases of the mosquito-transmitted virus, while Riverside County has had four. Last year, the Riverside County had a record of 141 cases and six deaths, while San Bernardino County had 60 cases and three deaths. Neither of the counties has reported any deaths related to the West Nile virus so far in 2016.

The Solano County has been also affected by the virus and recently reported three new cases. On Thursday, state health officials said three people had been diagnosed with the West Nile Virus. The infections occurred in children and adults in Rio Vista, Dixon, and Vacaville, according to Deputy Health Officer Dr. Michael Stacey.

The virus has been found all across Solano County, said Mosquito Abatement District Manager Richard Snyder. The West Nile Virus has been detected in birds, chickens, and of course, mosquitoes. The first time it was identified in the Solano County was in April. Last year, the county had nine confirmed cases.

West Nile Virus: How it is transmitted and how to avoid it

The virus is born in birds, and it is spread by the Culex mosquito species that get infected while feeding on birds carrying the disease. Both humans and animal can be affected by the virus through a mosquito bite, but there is no need to panic. Contrary to Zika, the West Nile Virus is not that dangerous.

About one out of five people who are infected with the virus will develop any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms can be mild or severe, and they are most likely to be suffered by people over 50 years old or individuals with a compromised immune system.

West Nile Virus
Transmission Cycle of the West Nile Virus. Image credit: Grass Hopper Lawns.

Mild symptoms include fever, headache and body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. Only one percent of the cases show severe symptoms, and they include high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, tremors, disorientation, muscle weakness, convulsions, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. Those symptoms are part of a neurological disease that can cause the virus, and sometimes can be fatal, although it is rare.

To avoid mosquito bites, health officials are recommending residents to use insect repellent and avoid to be outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. People should wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks and make sure to drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Another recommendation is to have tight-fitting screens on the windows to avoid mosquitoes inside the house.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention