World Bulletin / News Desk
The outbreak of West Nile disease in the United States moved a step closer on Wednesday to becoming the second worst on record with federal health authorities reporting 280 cases of the virus-caused illness over the past week.
There have now been 4,249 cases of West Nile recorded this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 cases fewer than in 2006, the second-largest outbreak on record.
The number of deaths rose by five to 168 since last week, the CDC said.
The worst year on record for West Nile disease was 2003, when 9,862 cases were reported, the CDC said.
The pace of new cases of the disease - which is transmitted from infected birds to humans by mosquitoes -- has slowed since late summer, authorities said.
More than 70 percent of the cases have been reported in eight states: Texas, Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Illinois and California. Texas has been the hardest hit, recording close to 40 percent of the cases in the country, according to the CDC.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been the epicenter of this year's outbreak, with 33 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that health officials in Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, may have vastly underreported cases of the serious neuroinvasive form of West Nile.
The report said the number of cases detected through Tarrant County blood bank screenings - information that helps public officials determine the size of an outbreak - differs significantly from what officials there have reported.
But state health officials said it was unlikely cases were overlooked.
The severe neuroinvasive form of the disease almost always requires hospitalization and can lead to meningitis, encephalitis and death, according to the CDC.
"Neuroinvasive disease is not subtle," said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas health department. "We're confident physicians knew about the outbreak and were on the lookout for disease."
Nationwide, half of cases reported to the CDC have been of the neuroinvasive form. The other half are West Nile Fever, a milder form which causes flu-like symptoms and is not deadly.
Outbreaks tend to be unpredictable and are typically triggered by a combination of hot weather and intermittent rainfall as well as ecological factors such as the size of the bird and mosquito populations.
In an interview Hollywood actor Jean Claude Van Damme has stated that he favoured Arabic food and that the diet followed by the Prophet Muhammad was one that was best for the human body
El Nino has devastated Mozambique's Gorongosa park with political tensions threatening the park
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on skin for a few minutes to create suction, the therapy itself dates back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Earth has hit a record high with an overall globel temperature the highest ever on record
The National Institute of Health may fund research into mixed embryos to better understand human diseases and develop therapies to treat them.
Travel across multiple time zones disrupts circadian rhythms resulting in jet lag
After five years the radiation levels in the Pacific Ocean are close to normal levels after a nuclear meltdown in the city
A trilateral pledge will see a jump from the current collective clean power levels of about 37% to 50% by 2025
Around 6.5 million deaths globally are attributed each year to poor air quality inside and outside, making it the world's fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking
New World Drug Report research identifies heroin as deadliest drug
Zika has caused alarm throughout the Americas since cases of the birth defect microcephaly were reported in Brazil, the country hardest hit by the outbreak
Philadelphia has become the first big city in the US to place a tax on soda to tackle the obesity crisis
Average global temperatures startlingly higher than normal between March-May
Government study provides strongest evidence of cell phone health effects
The reason for the high-level threat in the area is the presence there of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus that health authorities say causes birth defects in newborns