American Scene: CDC says West Nile cases rise 40% in one week

West Nile virus cases are up 40 percent since last week and may rival the record years of 2002 and 2003, federal health officials said Wednesday.

So far this year, 1,590 cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 66 deaths.

About half of the cases are serious illnesses, and the CDC considers those the best indicator of West Nile activity because many mild cases do not get reported and their symptoms may not even be recognized.

Typical symptoms are fever, headache and body aches, and most people get better on their own in a few days. Less than 1 percent develops neurological symptoms such as stiff necks and even coma and paralysis.

Health officials think that West Nile activity is at its peak, but likely will continue through October. Because symptoms can take two weeks to appear, reported cases lag behind when people become infected.

All states except Alaska and Hawaii have found West Nile virus in people, birds or mosquitoes this year. Texas has been the hardest hit, accounting for half of the cases reported to the CDC so far.

ILLINOIS

Teachers union gives 10-day strike notice

CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union has given a 10-day strike notice, saying members are willing to walk off the job for the first time in 25 years.

Union President Karen Lewis said Wednesday that contract talks are faltering, with unresolved issues that include pay increases and job security.

The notice does not mean teachers necessarily will go on strike. The union could decide to continue negotiating.

The soonest teachers could go on strike is Sept. 10. Many students are already back to school. The rest begin Tuesday.

The Chicago Board of Education says it is ready to care for children who rely on schools for meals and a safe place during the day.

Both sides already agreed on one big issue: hiring more teachers to allow for a longer school day.

FLORIDA

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