On Monday, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report saying that, in the United States, 2012 was the deadliest year on record for deaths attributed to the West Nile virus.
Texas led the nation, compromising 33 percent of all reported cases with 1,868 infections and 89 deaths. That was far above California, which had the second most reported cases at 479 and 20 deaths.
In the majority of West Nile virus cases, most people experience only minor symptoms such as fever and a mild headache. However, some people who become infected with the virus develop a life-threatening illness that includes inflammation of the brain.
Serious symptoms can include:
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Disorientation or confusion
- Stupor or coma
- Tremors or muscle jerking
- Lack of coordination
- Partial paralysis or sudden muscle weakness
Signs and symptoms of West Nile fever usually last a few days, but signs and symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis can linger for weeks, and certain neurological effects, such as muscle weakness, may be permanent.
If you or a family member experience any of these more severe symptoms see a physician immediately.
The CDC's Dr. Lyle Petersen says it's impossible to know what West Nile will do this summer. "It is very hard to predict," he said in a telephone interview with NBC News. "I can't tell you what the weather is going to be like this summer, for example." The virus is driven by weather; it's worse during hot, wet summers in temperate climates.
"What last summer's outbreak tells us is that West Nile is not going to go away," Petersen said. "Most places in the United States are at risk of having outbreaks."
Currently, there is no vaccine against the virus for people. Most infections occur in the warmer months when mosquitoes are active.
No surprise here, but food for thought. A new report reveals a couple of connections, that with a little common sense you could probably figure out anyway, that have been confirmed in a scientific study.
According to the study, in the last 20 years, there has been a substantial rise in the consumption of sugary drinks in 2 to 11 year olds and children who drink these beverages ingest far more calories than children who don't.
Also, children who drink sugar-sweetened beverages eat more unhealthy foods than other children.
Sugar-sweetened beverages include sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
Unhealthy foods are considered ones that contain high levels of solid fats, sodium and calories such as pizza, fast food hamburgers, cakes, cookies, pies, and fried foods.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 11,000 U.S. children aged 2-18 years old who participated in national surveys from 2003-2010. During this time children's consumption of food and sugar-sweetened beverages increased, and the consumption of non-sweetened beverages decreased.
Breaking down the analysis even more, it was determined that the sugar-sweetened beverages were the primary cause of increased calories for children 2 to 11 years old.
The study is scheduled for publication (with greater detail) in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"Among all age groups analyzed, the energy density (calories per gram) of food consumed increased with higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake," lead investigator Kevin Mathias, of the department of nutrition at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a journal news release.
Currently in New York City, there is a hotly contested debate over the legality of banning certain sized sugar-sweetened beverages. Some people feel it's a good idea to help combat the obesity epidemic and others believe that banning these drinks denies a person the r