World Bulletin / News Desk
The number of West Nile virus infections in the United States has jumped more than 60 percent in the past week in what federal officials say is one of the country's biggest-ever outbreaks of the disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on Wednesday that 1,118 cases and 41 deaths had been reported so far this year, up from fewer than 700 cases and 26 deaths just one week ago.
That is the highest number of West Nile virus infections reported through the third week of August since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999, the CDC said. The worst U.S. outbreak occurred in 2003, with 9,862 cases and 264 deaths that year.
"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile virus outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the division of vector-borne infectious diseases for the CDC.
Federal officials are stumped by the severity of the outbreak.
Cases usually flare up in the summer because the illness is most often transmitted from infected birds to people by mosquitoes.
Victims may suffer fever and aches that can become severe or even cause death, especially in the elderly, children and other at-risk groups. There is no specific treatment for the infection.
Symptoms are often mild and many people stricken do not see a doctor, meaning cases are likely underreported.
More than half of this year's cases are in Texas, but the disease now has been detected in 47 states, and 38 states have reported cases in humans, with only Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont reporting no cases.
About 75 percent of the cases have been in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota, officials said.
Nationwide, 56 percent of cases are of the more serious type that can cause paralysis, meningitis or encephalitis, the CDC said. The remaining 44 percent are the milder form of West Nile Fever.
HOT WEATHER A CULPRIT?
Officials said they were uncertain why this year's outbreak had been so severe. A mild winter, a hot summer and other factors such as fluctuations in the bird population are contributors, officials said.
"We don't really know why it's worse this year than in previous years," Petersen said. "One observation that has occurred over many decades ... has been that hot weather seems to promote West Nile virus outbreaks."
Dallas, where a health state of emergency was declared this month, is experiencing an unprecedented epidemic, said Petersen.
Latest figures show there have been 640 cases of the disease in Texas. Texas state health officials said 23 people had died, including 15 in north Texas.
"Dallas has been hardest hit," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
So far, 11 deaths have been reported in Dallas County this year, compared with 10 in the period between 2003 - when the disease was first detected in Dallas - and 2011.
Aerial pesticide spraying in the city of Dallas and surrounding cities has been under way since last week.
Officials are bracing for more cases because West Nile peaks in mid-August and lasts through September. There is often a lag between the time of infection and the appearance of symptoms.
Symptoms of the deadliest form of West Nile include headache, high fever, coma, neck stiffness, disorientation and paralysis. West Nile fever symptoms include fever, headache, body ache, swollen glands and sometimes a body rash, medical authorities said.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) estimated that in 2013, at least 93 percent of logging in Mozambique was illegal -- and that most of the illicit timber ended up sold in China.
Erik Solheim told AFP in an interview on Monday that even if the United States withdraws, China and the European Union will step in and take the lead to implement the global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Polyethylene represents 40 percent of Europe's demand for plastic products, mostly in the form of packaging and shopping bags.
The High Court had demanded ministers come up with a plan to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution, largely caused by diesel emissions, by 3:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday.
PEG-2S promises to tackle superbugs that threaten world health
The change affects grazing conditions for the 146,000 or so semi-domesticated reindeer in Norway who feed on lichen and moss under the snow.
The discovery of the giant shipworm, a species never before studied, marked the first time scientists had live specimens in hand, according to an article published this week in American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
As many as one in 45 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the United States, according to a recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A full 1.6 billion people remain affected by NTDs -- more than 500 million of them children -- but that number is down from more than two billion in 2010, WHO said.
For the first time ever in modern history, a team of scientists Monday documented as what they're describing as large-scale river reorganization as a result of human-caused climate change.
In the next few hours he will receive a healthy kidney thanks to a pioneering system that has made Spain the world leader in organ transplants for the past 25 years.
Japan's corals, the northernmost in the world, could offer important data to bolster knowledge about marine life, as Australia's Great Barrier Reef faces a threat to its survival.
China is the world's largest consumer and producer of tobacco, and the industry provides the government with colossal sums.
During his time leading IAS, Mark Wainberg organised the 13th International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, and he also co-chaired the same conference in Toronto in 2006.
The UN's health agency said the epidemic had left more than 25,000 people sick, warning that number was likely to double by the end of June.
80 percent of countries acknowledge that their financing is still not enough to meet their nationally-set targets for increasing access to safe water and sanitation, it found.