LITTLE ROCK The Arkansas Department of Health says confirmed cases of the West Nile virus are on the rise in Arkansas and neighboring states.
Officials said there have been nine cases in the state confirmed so far in 2012, up significantly from only one case reported in all of 2011.
Across the country, 26 states have reported West Nile virus infections in 390 patients. Eight deaths have occurred.
Nearly 80 percent of the cases have occurred in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
"Since the other states with increased West Nile virus activity surround Arkansas, we can expect our numbers to continue to rise," state public health veterinarian Susan Weinstein said in a statement.
The health department is asking health-care providers to "increase their consideration" of the virus when treating patients and to submit clinical specimens to a commercial laboratory.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, the health department said, adding the infections usually peak in mid-August. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash with less than 1 percent of patients developing a serious neurological illness.