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West Nile Latest: How Widespread Virus is in Texas


As Texas deals with one of the biggest outbreaks of West Nile in the state's history, its neighbor to the north, Oklahoma, has recorded its highest number of West Nile virus cases ever.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says 118 cases have been recorded so far this year - the highest ever. The agency also says two more people have died from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to seven for 2012.

The numbers, while significant, pale in comparison to Texas, whose state health department said Tuesday afternoon that 1013 cases of West Nile in 82 counties had occurred. 40 of those cases have resulted in death, including one last week in Lamar County, the first in our region outside the Metroplex. Dallas County has the most West Nile deaths at 13, followed by Tarrant County with 4. The virus has killed one in Collin County.

Figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services reports the worst outbreak was in 2003, when there were 2753 human cases of the virus in 190 of Texas' 254 counties.

In early August, Shelley Stonecipher, a zoonosis control veterinarian with the Texas Department of State Health Services in Region 2/3, told KETR the peak West Nile season would occur in mid-August. It was on August 29 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported cases were up 40 percent since the previous week. Cases are expected to continue through October.

The disease first appeared in the United States in 1999, and health officials say this summer's hot, dry weather may have contributed to the current boom in cases.  

Ground spraying for mosquitoes in Northeast Texas to combat the virus continues in cities like Bonham, Commerce, Greenville and Paris. Aerial spraying has taken place over the last month in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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