In a follow-up to last week’s report on California’s record season as far as West Nile virus (WNV) fatalities are concerned, additional fatalities reported in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties bring the WNV death tally to 34.  Previous highs were in 2014 (31) and 2004 (29).

West Nile virus
Culex quinquefasciatus

In addition, California health officials saw an additional 58 new WNV human cases  during the past week. The total to date stands at 570 cases from 30 counties. This is lower than the 722 cases reported during the same period in 2014.

Since first seen in California in 2003, 5,375 human WNV cases have been reported, including 210 fatalities.

Related: Chikungunya, West Nile virus and mosquito control in the US: A chat with Clarke’s Dr. Rajeev Vaidyanathan

According to the CDC, approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.

About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

There is no specific treatment for WNV infection.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

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