WICHITA, Kan. - Health officials are on alert now that West Nile virus has returned to Kansas. Via Christi officials say three cases have now been confirmed in Sedgwick County. The Centers for Disease Control reports Kansas is one of 24 states to report human cases of West Nile this year.
Health officials say cases are turning up earlier than normal and more serious illnesses of the virus have been reported so far this year than any since 2004. So far this year, 241 human cases have been reported in 24 states, including four deaths. They believe the mild winter, early spring and very hot summer have fostered breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people. Most West Nile infections are reported in August and September, so it's not clear how bad this year will be.
"Unless the weather changes dramatically, we'll see more cases (in 2012) than we have in the last couple of years," said Roger Nasci of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mosquitoes pick up the virus from birds they bite and then spread it to people. West Nile virus was first reported in the United States in 1999.
Experts say the best way to prevent West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellants, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies. Also, empty standing water from buckets, kiddie pools and other places to discourage mosquito breeding.