US West Nile Cases Near All-Time High

Knoxville (WVLT) - Federal health officials have said the nation is on pace to have its worst West Nile Virus season in years.

But Tennessee is yet to report any human cases.

And while Knox County is testing mosquitoes, birds and horses, health officials say none has tested positive.

They say it may be one of the few benefits of this summer's drought.

Nineteen states have reported 122 human cases of the mosquito borne West Nile Virus, including three deaths.

That's nearly four times as many reported cases as there were at this time last year.

But this time last year, Knox County had already detected the virus present in its mosquito population.

And this year?

"We have had no confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Knox County. We are continuing to check birds and mosquitoes and none of those have come back as testing positive for West Nile virus,” says Ronnie Nease, Knox County Director of Environmental Health.

County workers continue to spray for mosquitoes, and apply larvicide to standing water, or what standing water there is.

It's a breeding area for mosquitoes, but the lack of rain earlier this summer dried up the puddles and ponds where mosquitoes usually breed.

"They seem to have helped us here in this area, because our counts were not as high as they had been earlier in the year,” Nease says.

Shelby county is reporting 55 positive mosquito pools. Hamilton, Sullivan and Dyer counties have each detected positive birds. And in Clay County, a horse tested positive for the disease.

Though, here in Knox County, we're not out of the woods just yet.

"And I'm anxious to see what they look like this coming week and the next few weeks to see if this rain, more standing water is going to generate more adult mosquitoes,” says Nease.

The much-needed rain are coming now, just as the majority of West Nile cases historically occur.

Only about one in five people infected with West Nile Virus get sick.

Severe symptoms include neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

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