California Leads Nation in West Nile Fatalities

California suffered the highest number of West Nile Virus deaths in the nation this year, according to a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state saw 29 deaths from the virus, which is nearly twice the amount reported in 2013. The last time the state saw that many deaths from West Nile was exactly one decade ago.

Overall cases also reached a record high of 762, while a whopping 3,338 mosquito samples have tested positive. The counties of Los Angeles and Orange were among those with actual fatalities.

“We certainly had elevated West Nile virus compared to previous years, especially over the last five years,” said Dr. Vicki Kramer, chief of the vector borne disease section at California Department of Public Health. Her department issued dire warnings in September regarding the spread of the deadly disease throughout the state.

Experts believe a number of factors may have contributed to the rise in West Nile Virus cases, including the state’s drought. The idea may seem counterintuitive since mosquitos need water to breed. But the real problem is stagnant water, experts say. Rainfall, on the other hand, will often wash the larvae away. In addition, the lack of resources during a drought decreases the number of natural mosquito predators in circulation.

Read more about California’s West Nile Virus problem here.