Number of West Nile Cases is Up

Human cases of the West Nile Virus are up 16 percent in the U.S. this year, but that increase is even higher in the Gulf Coast states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas.

Woodland Heights Medical Center physician, Dr. Michael Iversen, said, "We did have more mosquitoes after the hurricanes. The reason for that is more standing water, because it's fresh water."

As of December 5, there have been six confirmed human cases of the West Nile Virus in Angelina county in 2005. The virus often worries doctors most during the warm summer months when mosquitoes seem to be everywhere.

"We're not in great danger right now, because when the cold weather is out, none of the insects will come out - generally, 50 degrees and below. If you see bees, then there's a possibility you're going to see mosquitoes."

More at risk for contracting the West Nile Virus are people over 50 and organ transplant patients.

Health experts say you can defend yourself from the virus by practicing the four "Ds" to avoid mosquito bites. Dress accordingly, avoid dusk and dawn, wear bug spray containing deet, and drain standing water.

Since the West Nile Virus was first detected in 1999, more than 16,000 people have contracted the disease. More than 650 of those cases have been fatal.