CDC reports new cases of West Nile virus
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed three more cases of West Nile virus Monday in humans, with new occurrences in Alabama, Texas and Indiana.
The new cases mark the first report of a human infection in Indiana, the second in Alabama and 13th in Texas, bringing the total of human cases this year to 138 in seven states.
Monday's disclosure comes after seven people have died in Louisiana from the mosquito-borne virus.
The CDC's director said Sunday that the spread of West Nile has grown to epidemic proportions.
"It's a fine line between outbreak or epidemic," Dr. Julie Gerberding told CBS' "Face the Nation." "But when you see something that's involving so many people in so many states, it's probably helpful to think of it as an expanding, emerging infectious disease epidemic."
The virus has been detected in 36 states and the District of Columbia in 2002. Only seven of those states and the District of Columbia have found it in humans. The rest are in animals such as mosquitoes, birds and horses.
"Wherever the birds are going, the mosquitoes are following, and that really does set the stage for transmission across the country," Gerberding said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS about one in five infected people have symptoms -- most of them flulike such as muscle aches, fever, headaches, malaise and lethargy.
One of about 150 people develop severe complications such as encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, Fauci said.
At highest risk are people with weakened immune systems such as young children and the elderly.
"The older you get, the greater the probability that you would not only have serious complications, but you would actually die," Fauci said.
No treatment exists other than to alleviate symptoms. Fauci said investigators are working hard on a vaccine for humans, but he described one for horses as "not so effective."
Health workers are urging people to reduce their chances of becoming infected by staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most likely to bite, by wearing loose, long-sleeve shirts and long pants outside and by using insect repellent that contains the chemical DEET.
The CDC also is urging people to get rid of standing pools of water where mosquitoes can breed.
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