Health officials in Iowa have reported the death of a woman in the southwest of the state earlier this month. The woman has not yet been named, but has been described as being between 41 and 60 years of age. Iowa has recorded seven cases of the disease this year, with this being the first fatality; three other possible infections have been reported. In 2016 37 cases of infection with the Virus were reported in Iowa, with a single fatality.
West Nile Virus is a Mosquito-born Flavivirus (the group of RNA Viruses that also includes the Yellow Fever, Zika and Hepatitis C Viruses), first diagnosed in the West Nile District in Uganda in 1937, and subsequently reported in a number of African and Middle Eastern countries. The first case in the US was was reported in New York City in 1999, and it has subsequently been reported in every continental state of America. Outbreaks have also been reported in some European countries.
The West Nile Virus is a zoonotic infection, that principally infects Birds, and is transferred to Humans by Mosquitoes or occasionally Ticks. Infections have also been reported in a wide range of Mammal species, as well as in Crocodiles. Around 80% of infected Humans show no symptoms, with those who do generally suffering only a minor fever. However in a small number of cases the Virus infects the nervous system, causing a meningitis- or encephalitis-like infection that can often prove fatal. There is currently no known treatment for the Virus, making suppression and avoidance of Mosquitoes the best way to minimise fatalities from the disease.
Neural tissue infected by West Nile Virus. Brian Davies/University of Washington.
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