High number of West Nile cases worry health officials

ATLANTA (AP) - Federal health officials say the nation is on pace to have its worst West Nile virus season in years.

So far this year, there have been nearly four times as many cases reported as there were at the same time last year. Officials say cool weather in August or September -- when the bulk of West Nile cases usually occur -- could take the sting out of the season.

But Dr. Lyle Petersen of the C-D-C in Atlanta says if the current trend continues, the indicence of the mosquito-borne virus is going to be very high.

Nineteen states, most of them west of the Mississippi, have reported 122 human cases of West Nile. That total includes three deaths, including one in Mississippi.

Health officials had counted only 33 cases by late July last year, but it turned out to be the worst season since the record year 2003.

At least 177 people died from West Nile in 2006 out of 42-hundred and 69 cases, while 264 people died out of nearly ten-thousand cases in 2003.

West Nile virus was first reported in the United States in 1999 in New York, then spread across the country. Only about one in five infected people get sick. Severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)