Fri, Aug 24, 2012 - Page 4 News List

CDC warns travelers to US against West Nile virus

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwanese intending to visit the US should be on their guard against mosquito bites, as the country is in the midst of one its worst outbreaks of West Nile virus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.

Citing US government data, CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said there have been 41 deaths from the mosquito-borne virus in the US so far this year.

As Taiwan has close engagements with the US, the CDC has tightened monitoring and taken all precautionary measures against the disease at local airports and harbors, Chou said.

“To date, no inbound passengers have been detected to have been infected with the virus, nor has any Taiwanese fallen victim to the infection after visiting the US,” Chou said.

Nonetheless, he added, US-bound travelers should stay alert and protect themselves from mosquito bites while there.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes that have previously bitten infected birds, dogs, cats or rabbits.

According to the US Centers for Disease and Prevention, there have been 1,118 recorded cases this year, about half of them in Texas. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August.

Only about one in five infected people get sick, Chou said, adding that about one in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms, including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

Citing US medical experts, Chou said the mild winter and very hot summer boosted the number of mosquitoes around, helping to spread the virus.

Chou said the best way to prevent West Nile disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellents, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies, he added.

West Nile virus was first reported in the US in 1999 in New York, and gradually spread across the country over the years. It peaked in 2003, when severe illnesses reached nearly 3,000 and deaths surpassed 260.

So far this year, there have been reports of West Nile infections in birds and humans in 47 US states.

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