Texas West Nile virus death toll hits 16

The West Nile virus death toll in Texas has risen to 16 along with 381 infections in twelve counties, causing local health officials to declare a state of emergency.

Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed its 10th case related to West Nile on Tuesday. The county has also reported 190 infections, Global Biodefense reports.

The outbreak represents a major jump over 2011, when only 27 people were infected in the entire state.

"The disease poses an immediate public health threat to Dallas County," David Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said, according to Global Biodefense. "We need to use all possible tools, including aerial spraying, to fight this outbreak. We will support the decisions made by local officials as we work together to confront this situation. We are on standby to respond to their requests for aerial spraying or other assistance."

Texas is reporting the highest number of cases in the nation, but other states experiencing elevated numbers include California, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Infections with West Nile virus can cause fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Serious complications include West Nile encephalitis, poliomyelitis or meningitis, along with disorientation, neck stiffness, tremors, muscle weakness and convulsions. The disease can also cause coma, neurological damage, paralysis and death.