Possible West Nile Death in Alabama

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Health officials say an elderly Alabama woman is the first person in the country to die from the West Nile virus this year. Alabama Public Health officials said Monday a Talladega County woman in her 80's died of the illness.

The department would not release the victim's name or the exact day she died, citing confidentiality laws.

Officials for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said they were awaiting blood samples to conduct their own tests. A
CDC spokesman said the center has not confirmed a West Nile death in the country this year.

In addition to the woman's death, there have been four new human cases of West Nile since the first human case in Geneva County last week.

Three of the four people are recovering and the fourth, a man in his eighties, is hospitalized. The four cases are from Baldwin, Marshall, Monroe and Shelby counties.

Dr. John Mosley Hayes, public health spokesman, said the message remains the same. People need to protect themselves against mosquito bites and communities need to establish integrated mosquito control programs.

Last year saw a record 4100 West Nile cases in the United States, including 284 deaths.

There were 49 human infections and four deaths from the virus in Alabama last year.

The virus causes fever and aches and can lead to potentially fatal swelling of the brain.

The virus has also been detected this year in horses in Baldwin and Mobile counties and 29 birds throughout the state.

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West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home. Remove standing water from any item or area that can hold water. Standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face; spray on clothing, as well. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin and clothing.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

  • Stay inside at dawn and dusk because that is when mosquitoes are most active.

Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report