Bugged to death

It’s been a killer mosquito season. Literally.

I doubt anyone’s missed the panicked headlines. West Nile virus–an infection spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes–gripped the country in epidemic fashion this summer. And it likely won’t let go until those little bloodsuckers are gone for the year.

So should you be worried? Odds are, probably not. West Nile isn’t contagious. And most people infected with the virus won’t even know it. They won’t have any symptoms and the illness will go entirely unreported.

Now for the bad news: This year’s outbreak is shaping up to go down as the worst on record since scientists first detected West Nile in the U.S. back in 1999. It has affected over 2,500 people as of early September–more than half of whom have contracted the most serious form of the disease. This type of infection, classified as neuroinvasive, can lead to severe brain inflammation and paralysis.

Over 100 of these neuroinvasive cases have resulted in death. Fatalities have been reported everywhere from Michigan to Maryland. But the latest stats are pegging Texas (and especially Dallas) as the most heavily affected area in the country.

Luckily, the worst of it is already over, according to health officials. But new cases are likely to surge right through October anyway, due to the gap in time between infection and onset of symptoms. When all is said and done, the death toll could still climb higher. Which means now is as good a time as any to batten down your body’s hatches.

But you won’t find much help at your local pharmacy. There’s no vaccine for West Nile. And there’s no cure, either… which means that you have to rely on your own immune system to do all the heavy lifting.

Luckily, once you’ve beaten a case of West Nile, you’re immune for life. And research shows that one of my favorite products–a hybridized medicinal mushroom extract –can give your body a serious hand in the fight.

In a 2009 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, scientists at Colorado State University infected mice with a powerful strain of West Nile. They treated the mice with medicinal mushrooms  both before infection and at various intervals afterward. Blood samples showed that medicinal mushrooms  increased levels of West Nile-specific antibodies and T-cells significantly. The effect was especially potent among young mice.

Yes, it’s an animal study–and you know how I feel about those. But at the rate that West Nile cases are multiplying, every extra layer of protection counts. And in the end, you have nothing to lose by taking a daily dose of medicinal mushrooms.