The Arkansas Department of Health updated the Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee this week about the West Nile Virus, stating that as of September 14, 2012 there have been a total of 39 cases of West Nile in Arkansas, with four of those leading to death. The most cases ever reported in Arkansas was 43 in 2002--the first year the state saw West Nile Virus--a number that the Department of Health expects the state to surpass. In addition, this year will likely be the most deadly on record according to the health department. The most deaths the state has ever seen in one year due to the virus is four.
While the most severe form of West Nile Virus, called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis, can lead to death, most people infected each year do not develop this form. In fact, four in five people infected show no symptoms at all. Those most at risk of developing West Nile encephalitis are those who are very young, elderly, pregnant, or who have a weakened immune system. Symptoms include headache, high fever, rash, vomitting, diarrhea, and mental confusion, and paralysis.
Since there is no vaccine currently available for humans, the best protection against West Nile Virus is to avoid mosquito bites. Arkansans can protect themselves by staying indoors between dusk and dawn--when mosquitos are most active, or if they must go out during these times, by wearing protective clothing and using mosquito repellent containing 20-30% DEET. In addition, the Arkansas Department of Health advises Arkansans to drain standing water in their yards that could serve as breeding sites for mosquitos.
For more information on West Nile Virus, visit the Arkansas Department of Health's website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.