(NEW YORK) — Outbreaks of West Nile virus are on the rise this year, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to protect themselves against infection.
So far, 241 cases have been reported nationwide with four deaths, according to the CDC. The outbreak is the most dramatic in seven years and seems to be striking earlier than normal.
West Nile virus transmission happens when people are bitten by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms can include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people in the U.S. are more likely to become infected between June and September, with infections peaking in mid-August. However, various factors including weather and human behavior can impact the number of cases that occur.
While most of the infections are in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma, cases of the virus have been reported in 42 states. In Ohio, a 48-year-old man has the first reported case there. Karen Butler, director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health says he is recovering.
“He’s doing a lot better and he is still receiving what we call supportive care, and what that does is help him in his recuperations,” she said.
Though the CDC says there are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, West Nile infection, Butler says prevention is still important. She suggests making sure things like backyard kiddie pools aren’t left full of water.
“Get rid of mosquito breeding sites and particularly that includes anything that will support standing water,” advised Butler.
She says if you’re outdoors there are simple steps one can take to prevent West Nile infections.
“If you’re outdoors we always recommend to use insect repellent. Particularly mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn. So be sure to use your insect repellent,” Butler said, recommending that people wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jackie Wattles, CNN