After suffering 10 deaths from the West Nile virus so far this year, Dallas County has declared a state of emergency, setting the stage for aerial anti-mosquito spraying. The disease is surging in the state, which has seen at least 381 cases this year, compared to just 27 last year; 95% of tested Houston mosquitoes were carrying the virus, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Texas is on track to have the worst year ever for West Nile virus," an official says. The statewide death toll stands at 16.
Officials blame a warm winter and wet spring; human and bird activity can also play a role, a CDC epidemiologist says. Though Texas' outbreak is the nation's worst, the state isn't the only one that's suffering: Louisiana and Mississippi have each seen 39 cases, including one death each, while Oklahoma has grappled with 22 cases. "We're probably hitting the peak nationally," notes the epidemiologist. The virus can turn into West Nile fever or a range of other, more threatening diseases—though "less than 1% develop a serious neurologic illness," says a CDC rep, according to CNN. An expert points out that 90% of the victims she has studied took no precautions (like wearing bug spray).