Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 2, 2002

West Nile infects Carver Co. man

By Lynda Jensen

A Carver County man is among two first-ever cases of probable West Nile Virus infection in humans in Minnesota, which was reported Thursday.

Blood samples from a 29-year-old Carver County man and a 35-year-old Hennepin County man have tested positive for West Nile Virus antibody at the MDH Public Health Laboratory in Minneapolis, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The samples have been sent to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta for confirmation, which may take up to several weeks to complete.

Both men were hospitalized with symptoms including fever, severe headache, and neck pain. Both have been released. Neither had encephalitis, the most severe form of West Nile Virus.

"These first cases of human West Nile Virus were not unexpected," said Dr. Harry Hull, state epidemiologist. "We have been monitoring the state closely and have known that the potential was there ever since the virus first appeared in the state in July."

To date, evidence of West Nile Virus has been found in 229 horses and 215 birds covering all but a handful of Minnesota's 87 counties.

West Nile Virus is a disease transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. It cannot be spread by contact with an infected person.

While rarely serious in humans, it can sometimes lead to encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.

The occurrence of West Nile Virus in humans does not mean that Minnesota will experience anything like the number of cases that have occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Hull said.

"In fact, the experience of our neighboring states would suggest otherwise. We will continue to work with our partners in public health to look for additional cases and to stress prevention measures," Hull said.

Hull reiterated that the threat of any one person becoming ill from West Nile Virus is still extremely low. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus. Fewer than one out of 150 people who become infected will get severely ill.

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