[Update, 5:47 pm EDT: Daniel J. DeNoon at WebMD has turned up with a particularly frightening story, quoting a Texas official who calls the outbreak "a disaster," and recounting the sometimes terrifying consequences of the illness. It's a scary story, but probably more on target than those mentioned below.]
Elizabeth Cohen at CNN says "the recent West Nile virus outbreak is the largest ever seen in the United States."
Elizabeth Weise at USA Today seems to challenge that when she quotes a CDC official saying "we are in one of the biggest West Nile virus outbreaks we have ever seen in this country." So is it the biggest, or one of the biggest?
The CDC itself, in the report that prompted the coverage, says "the 1118 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the third week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999."
The Washington Post, NPR, Business Week, and the Chicago Sun-Times, among others, ran the AP story by Mike Stobbe, which calls this one of the largest outbreaks. (Business Week also ran the Bloomberg story, calling this the biggest outbreak.) The AP says that the number of cases reported so far is about three times the usual number seen at this time of year, and it notes that about half of the cases are in Texas.
The New York Times reported 200 cases and 10 deaths on Aug. 16, but has not so far reported today's news about the big jump in cases and deaths.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske has a nice, if brief, piece in the Los Angeles Times quoting Dallas officials who say President Obama has requested a briefing on the epidemic from the CDC. Her story was apparently published before the CDC's release of the latest numbers, and she has not updated it.
Thank goodness for the AP, which seems to be the only news organization with the lights on. (Or the only one not entirely involved in packing its bags for the Republican convention in Tampa next week.)
In a commentary at Time magazine, Bryan Walsh blames global warming, in part, for the rise in West Nile virus–warmer temperatures mean more mosquitoes and more disease. He also points to the risks faced in the southern U.S., some of the warmest places in the country, and some of the poorest. "The severity of tropical diseases is also a matter of whether or not governments are capable — and willing — to defend their populations against infections," he writes. More poverty also means more disease.
I'm betting this story is going to get bigger before it's over. It deserves more coverage than it is getting.