Dozens of states are reporting a boom in cases of people contracting West Nile Virus.
Several local health departments have issued warnings urging residents to stay safe, especially after deaths were confirmed in Iowa, Texas and North Carolina.
Health experts say that they expect the incidence rate to only keep increasing as the scorching heat drags on, and are encouraging the public to protect themselves.
Cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in 36 states including California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas, according to the CDC
West Nile Virus is a disease that is spread through bites of mosquitoes, which become infected after feeding on infected birds.
Cases generally tend to spike during the summer and fall months, between June and September, when activity is the most common.
Although most people don’t develop symptoms, approximately 20 percent of those infected will develop an infection known as West Nile Fever, according to the CDC.
Symptoms include severe headaches, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, with the agency recommending to seek immediate medical attention.
Although there is no vaccine to protect against West Nile Virus, over-the-counter pain medication can help treat symptoms such as fever.
The illness can sometimes be fatal with about one out of 150 infected people dying from complications due to the virus.
Last year, there were 91 deaths out of the more than 1,000 cases that were reported across the US.
This year, deaths have so far been reported in Iowa, North Carolina and Texas.
‘This death related to West Nile is tragic and reminds us to protect ourselves and our families from mosquitoes,’ said Dr Ann Garvey of the Iowa Department of Public Health in a statement
‘Until the state’s first hard frost, whether it’s for work or play, being outside means there’s a risk for West Nile virus.’
In the CDC’s most recent update on July 24, the agency stated that 39 people had been infected with the virus, although Iowa health officials said the woman who died was not included in the report.
Additionally, on August 6, the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed six additional cases of West Nile virus, bringing the state’s 2018 total to 13 so far.
People of any age can become sick from the virus but those aged 50 and above, or who have weak immune systems, have the highest risk, according to the World Health Organization.
To protect yourself from the disease, experts recommend wearing insect repellent, avoid going outside between dawn and dusk which are peak mosquito feeding times, and to wear loose clothing.
Health departments have also encouraged residents to remove items from the outside of their home that contain water – such as buckets or pet dishes – because it can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.