Virginia reports first West Nile death

Virginia public health officials recently announced the state's first fatality from West Nile virus.

As of early this week, nine Virginians were confirmed to have contracted the mosquito-borne illness, which, in its most common form, causes flu-like symptoms but in some cases can cause severe neurological problems, according to the Washington Post.

Six of the current reported cases are located in the northern portion of the state, two are in the center and two are in the south. There were nine confirmed cases in Virginia in all of 2011.

Through early September, the number of West Nile virus cases in the United States set a record for year-to-date totals since the disease was first seen in the country in 1999. Nationwide, there have been 1,993 confirmed cases, including 87 deaths.

Texas has been the hardest hit state for infections and fatalities. At least 51 people have died from the illness, prompting several counties to begin spraying pesticide in order to reduce mosquito populations, according to SacBee.com.

"It's a disease that is not well-treated; in other words, there is no antiviral or specific medication to treat West Nile virus," Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, an infectious disease expert at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, said, DailyProgress.com reports. "The good news is that most people with West Nile virus tend to do relatively OK. The more serious cases are seen in either the very young or people who are very old. The most important thing that can be done would be to try to prevent West Nile virus since there is no effective treatment."