West Nile toll hits 10 in DuPage
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com August 30, 2012 3:54PM
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:44PM
The number of DuPage County residents sickened by bites from mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus has doubled in the past week. Ten people have now been reported ill from the infection, at least one of them a Naperville resident — and the season is just beginning.
Two west suburban residents comprise the sum of Illinois’ West Nile casualties so far this season. Lombard Village President Bill Mueller passed away Aug. 18 from complications of the virus, and a 64-year-old Elgin man succumbed during the same week.
With 56 cases so far, Illinois is faring better than numerous other states at this point. More than 70 percent of the 1,590 cases reported nationwide have come from (in descending order) Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Michigan. The illness claimed 25 more lives last week, bringing the death toll to 66 nationwide. Anticipating the worst is yet to come, public health officials say this could be the most devastating season yet.
In a phone call with reporters Wednesday, the head of vector-borne infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 1,590 cases tallied as of Tuesday represent the largest number reported to the agency through the last week of August since the virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999.
Dr. Lyle Petersen said officials weren’t taken by surprise when the cases skyrocketed, as they have done in past West Nile epidemics; he expects the numbers will continue to rise through October.
“We cannot accurately predict how many human cases will be reported this year,” Petersen said. “However, based on current reports, we think the numbers may come close to or even exceed the total number reported in the epidemic years of 2002 and 2003, when about 3,000 cases of neuroinvasive disease and more than 260 deaths were reported each year.”
More than half of the cases nationwide are of the more severe neuroinvasive form, developing into encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain; meningitis, which is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord; or acute flaccid paralysis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause a sudden onset of weakness in the limbs and/or breathing muscles.
While Illinois was hardest hit in the first epidemic year a decade ago, Texas has borne the brunt of the fast-accelerating human toll this year, counting 733 cases so far.
“We have had 416 cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease,” said Dr. David Lakey, health services commissioner for the state, where 31 people have died. “That’s up 93 from this time last week. Those numbers are going to continue to go up.”