The outbreak of West Nile disease in Texas this summer has become the most active and lethal in the state’s history, the state health commissioner said Wednesday.
Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the state’s 1,013 reported cases more than double the previous high. Its 40 reported deaths tie the previous high, Lakey said in a telephone news briefing.
More cases and deaths have been recorded at the local level but not yet reported to the state.
“As of this week, 2012 is now officially our worst year in the state of Texas for West Nile,” Lakey said during the briefing held by U.S. health officials.
Neither Lakey nor a leading U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official could explain why Texas has been so hard hit. Dr. Kyle Petersen, a West Nile specialist for the CDC, said the agency would look carefully at that question at the end of the season.
Lakey said state health officials are seeing signs that the mosquito-borne outbreak may have peaked in the northern part of Texas, the area by far the hardest hit. But he added that the number of cases and deaths in the state will keep rising at least into October.