Environmental Law Blog
West Nile Emerges from Mississippi Flood Waters
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"), the West Nile Virus is a potentially serious arbovirus (insect-borne virus) that infects the central nervous system. Approximately 150 people infected with West Nile Virus develop serious neurological symptoms from the disease. Approximately 20 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus develop mild symptoms, and the remaining 80 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus do not show any symptoms at all.
In 2007, 77 Missourians reported West Nile Virus illness, and 5 of those people died from the disease. West Nile Virus generally emerges in mid-to-late July, but due to this year's flooding, mosquitos are expected to carry the West Nile Virus starting in June. In fact, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the first case of West Nile Virus in Illinois and Missouri today.
West Nile Virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito or, in rare cases, through transfusions, transplants or mother-to-child. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite infected birds.
To protect the public from the health threats associated with West Nile Virus, the CDC recommends the initiation of surveillance after mosquitoes become active in the Spring. An effective surveillance program includes bird morbidity/mortality surveillance, live bird surveillance, horse health surveillance, mosquito-based surveillance, and human case activity surveillance.
Are our state and federal health agencies doing enough to monitor for West Nile Virus? In light of the current flooding and increased risk for infection, should Missouri take the threat of West Nile Virus more seriously and make an enhanced surveillance program an immediate priority?