ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It is not too early to begin thinking about ways to defend against West Nile virus.

The Centers for Disease Control said this week that 286 people died of West Nile virus in the United States last year, the highest number since the disease was first detected in 1999.

The CDC says 2012 also had the second highest number of reported “neuroinvasive” cases, 2,873. Neuroinvasive cases can often lead to meningitis and other brain-related illnesses.

Illinois had 290 cases of West Nile in 2012, including 12 deaths.

“This was the highest number of cases we’ve seen in Illinois since 2002, which we had the most cases in the entire country at 884 and that included 67 deaths,” says Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, in a release. Of those 290 cases 184 were neuroinvasive.

All the high water across the St. Louis area lends itself to a fertile breeding ground for tons of nuisance mosquitoes, the ones that bite but don’t carry the West Nile virus.

The director of Vector Control for the St. Louis County Health Department, Drew Hane, says the mosquitoes carrying the virus should show up around late July, August and September.

“This spring has been a little bit wetter so we’ve had quite a bit of breeding, but the thing to consider is that the adult mosquito typically only lives a few weeks in the natural environment,” Hane says. “The mosquitoes we’re seeing now aren’t going to be the major issues that we see in late July, August and September where we typically see higher numbers of West Nile virus.”

Hane says he expects this to be another relatively calm year for West Nile transmission in humans in the area.

The best way to protect from West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites. Use insect repellents when outdoors. Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Repair or install screens on doors and windows. Along with many other ways of avoiding the virus.

Symptoms of West Nile include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen glands.


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