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General Health : Infectious Disease Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Two New Yorkers Test Positive for West Nile
By Sue Mueller
Aug 16, 2008 - 10:49:00 AM

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Mosquito. Credit: Illinois Department of Public Health
SATURDAY August 16, 2008 ( -- New York City announced yesterday August 15 that for the first time this year two people had tested positive for West Nile virus. The Health Department urged residents to take steps to prevent the infection.

A 73-year-old woman from the Queens and a 60-year-old man from the Bronx became ill in late July and were hospitalized in August. The woman suffered encephalitis (brain inflammation), but is now recovering in the hospital. The man experienced meningitis (an inflammation of the brain and spinal tissue) and had already recovered.

"A case of West Nile virus provides an urgent reminder to protect ourselves," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "Wearing mosquito repellent whenever you are outdoors, and long sleeves and pants in the morning and evening will reduce your risk of contracting the virus. Older New Yorkers need to be especially careful; they are more likely to become seriously ill and die if they are infected."

The woman was likely infected with the West Nile virus in New York City because she had not left the city recently, according to the statement by the health department.  But it is uncertain where the man acquired the virus.  He had traveled outside of the city lately and could get the virus in the city or elsewhere.

Last year, 18 New Yorkers contracted the virus and three of them died.

As of August 12 this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 168 cases of West Nile virus including two deaths from the infection, one in Arizona and the other in Mississippi.  The real number can be much higher because the state and local governments need some time to file reports to the agency.

"Of the 168 cases, 73 (43%) were reported as West Nile meningitis or encephalitis (neuroinvasive disease), 89 (53%) were reported as West Nile fever (milder disease), and 6 (4%) were clinically unspecified at this time," the CDC states.

The West Nile cases were reported Alabama (1), Arizona (5), Arkansas (4), California (55), Colorado (14), Connecticut (1), Idaho (8), Iowa (1), Louisiana (2), Minnesota (9), Mississippi (17), Missouri (3), Nebraska (2), Nevada (2), North Dakota (8), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (5), Pennsylvania (1), South Dakota (11), Tennessee (3), Texas (10), Utah (2), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (1) and Wyoming (1).

An estimated 80 percent of people who get infected with West Nile do not experience any clinical symptoms.   But the virus can be a real danger to the young, the old and those whose immune systems are compromised.

Symptoms of the infection include in serious cases high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis and in milder cases fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Serious symptoms can last weeks and neurological damage may be permanent while milder symptoms can last as short as a few days and in some cases weeks.

It's believed that mosquito bites are the main source of human West Nile infection. The most effective way to prevent individuals from getting infected with this virus is to avoid exposure to mosquitoes by eliminating mosquitoes and preventing mosquito bites.

The New York City gives the following advice to help people avoid mosquitoes:

    * Use an approved insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not recommended for children under 3), or IR3535.
    * Wear protective clothing such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, particularly at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
    * Make sure windows have screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
    * Eliminate any standing water from your property, and dispose of containers that can collect water. Make sure roof gutters are clean and draining properly. Standing water is a violation of the health code.
    * Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.  Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers.

© 2004-2008 by unless otherwise specified

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