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August 23rd, 2012
11:00 AM ET

Fast facts on West Nile virus

The recent West Nile virus outbreak is the largest ever seen in the United States, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of cases so far this year is the highest recorded through September since the disease was first detected in the United States in 1999. As of Tuesday, 48 states had reported human infections. The cases reported to the CDC as of Tuesday total 2,636, including 118 deaths.

Here are some fast facts about the virus. For more on what you need to know to protect yourself and your family, read Elizabeth Cohen's Empowered Patient column.

Background on the West Nile virus

- Symptoms of infection include: fatigue, fever, headache, body aches, rash, and swollen lymph nodes.

- Those who become ill may develop West Nile encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

- There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus.

- The virus is spread by mosquitoes, which contract West Nile from infected birds.

- According to the CDC, only 1% of people bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes become seriously ill.

- It is not known how the virus arrived in the United States.

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Filed under: Conditions • Infectious diseases • Public Health

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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