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West Nile Virus Deaths Down In 2003
(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2003)
As the nation heads into what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls the peak season for West Nile virus (late August through September), the government has recorded a 25% reduction in WNv deaths, despite a 78% increase in the number of people reported to be infected with the virus. The number of deaths so far this year has fallen from 72 to 54 and the number of reported cases of infection rose from 1,641 to 2,923. These numbers indicate that the risk of fatal illness among those contracting WNv is smaller than CDC previously reported.

However, the director of CDC, Julie Gerberding, M.D. says that the higher number of infections this year may be the result of improved testing methods and earlier testing, according to the Associated Press. She did not offer an explanation for the lower death rate.

In 2002, 284 people died from West Nile virus out of the 4,256 people who became infected. Nevertheless, most people who become infected with WNv exhibit no symptoms. For a public health perspective on WNv and the threat that it presents, see The Truth About West Nile Virus, published in Pesticides and You, Spring 2002 issue (Vol. 23, No. 1).

Beyond Pesticides has said that broadcast spraying of pesticides for adult mosquito management is inneffective and dangerous and has urged localities and states to institute preventive measures aimed at reducing and eliminating breeding sites, management of mosquitoes at the larval stage with biological larvicides, wearing of long-sleeve shirts and long pants during biting hours, and the use of non-DEET, essential oil mosquito repellents. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides' program page.