Saturday, September 14, 2002

The Risk of West Nile Virus to People

So far in 2002, 1,295 human cases of West Nile Virus, including 54 fatalities, have been reported in 30 States and the District of Columbia. But what do these figures mean in terms of the actual risk to people of contracting WNV? According to this article in the Washington Post, 1 of every 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick (0.33 percent), 1 of every 100 sick people get seriously ill (1 percent), and about 1 of every 10 seriously ill people die (10 percent). So, on average, the likelihood of an individual getting bitten by an infected mosquito and getting sick, seriously ill, and dying is about 1 in 100,000 (or one one-thousandth of 1 percent). That number will vary depending on the part of the country in which an individual lives, their age and physical condition, the presence or absence of suitable mosquito breeding habitats, and the presence or absence of WNV-infected mosquitos. But any way you look at it, those are pretty good odds.

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