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West Nile prevalent, still without prevention

8/30/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The United States is experiencing the deadliest West Nile virus outbreak in the nation's history.

That's frustrating for Ellis County Health Administrator Butch Schlyer.

"One of the things that's been a bit disheartening about this whole thing -- and I can recall, from four, five years ago, I made inquiries -- they said there's a vaccine in the works, be on the market another four to five years," Schlyer said. "Now, we're four to five years later, and there's still talk about another four to five years.

"I don't know all the ramifications about the vaccine production, but it seems like we haven't made much progress in four to five years."

The only way to thwart the mosquitoes that carry West Nile is through a vaccine, Schlyer said.

"It's the only method of prevention, is to get vaccinated," he said. "I think we can do the best to avoid mosquitoes, but them little rascals find us regardless."

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported as of noon Friday there were five confirmed cases of West Nile in Kansas, and 14 additional probable cases. One of the cases is in Trego County. Sedgwick County had the most cases, with 12. Of the 19 total cases in the state, one patient has died.

Schlyer said a few possible cases were investigated in Ellis County, but results were negative. He said the last West Nile case in the county was approximately four or five years ago.

As more people get tested through the years, the more positive results you will see, Schlyer said.

"The more you test, the more you're going to find because we've had several years of people being exposed to this West Nile virus now," he said.

West Nile activity typically lasts through September. Schlyer urged people to exercise caution when outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. People should wear long-sleeve shirts and pants. As well, they should use insect repellent containing DEET.

After the recent rain, people also should make sure to get rid of standing water, Schlyer said.

"If you have any standing water around your house, be sure to empty it out so we don't get mosquito populations breeding," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced as of Tuesday 48 states have reported West Nile virus infection in people, birds or mosquitoes. Nationwide, a total of 1,590 West Nile cases -- including 66 deaths -- have been reported to the CDC. It's the highest number of cases reported to the CDC through the last week in August since 1999, when the virus first was detected in the U.S.

Approximately one in five people infected will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, lack of appetite, body aches, joint pains, vomiting and diarrhea.