(Reuters) - A total of 1,590 U.S. cases of West Nile virus, including 66 deaths, have been reported through late August this year, the highest human toll reported since the mosquito-borne disease was first detected in the country in 1999, health officials said on Wednesday.
The toll is rising quickly and "we think the numbers will continue to rise," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.
Through last week, 1,118 cases and 41 deaths had been reported, and the updated figures represent a 40 percent increase in the number of cases and a 61 percent spike in the number of deaths.
In hard-hit Texas, the number of confirmed cases soared to 733, up 197 from last week, said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Deaths reached 31, up 10 from last week.
"It looks like it is going to be our worst year ever," said Lakey. "As I look at the data, I'm not convinced we have peaked."
(Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by Sandra Maler)