A total of 1,590 cases of West Nile virus, including 66 deaths, were reported through late August this year in the United States, the highest human toll by that point in the calendar since the mosquito-borne disease was first detected in the country in 1999, health officials said on Wednesday. Through last week, 1,118 cases and 41 deaths had been reported. The updated figures represent a 40 percent increase in the number of cases and a 61 percent spike in the number of deaths, but are short of the all-time record for a full year: 9,862 cases and 264 deaths in 2003. In hard-hit Texas, the number of confirmed cases soared to 894, with 34 people dead, this year as of Wednesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Over half of the deaths occurred in the north of the state. All 48 contiguous states have reported cases of West Nile virus in birds, which act as hosts; in mosquitoes, which transmit it by biting birds and then mammals including humans. Only Alaska and Hawaii have been spared. And 43 states have at least one human case. So far, however, more than 70 percent of the human cases have been reported in just six states: Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan. The best way to protect your self from West Nile is to wear long sleeves and long pants while outdoors during dusk, dawn, and night. Use insect repellant while out side, and make sure you drain any standing water around your property. Most West Nile infections do not impact individuals who are primarily healthy. Only 1 in 150 infections can cause a health issue.
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