Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 13, 2004

HL man is infected with WNV

By Lynda Jensen, Editor

A middle-aged Howard Lake man was recently diagnosed with the West Nile Virus, on the heels of a 28-year-old McLeod County man who also tested positive for the disease in mid-July.

Neither man was hospitalized, and both are expected to recover.

This makes a total of three human cases reported for 2004 in Minnesota, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far in 2004, the virus has also been found in 91 birds from 27 counties and two horses from two counties in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Nationwide, the CDC received 495 reports of human cases –although the risk for contracting a serious case is relatively low for a healthy person, according to state health officials.

However, senior citizens are at a higher risk for more severe cases.

Symptoms usually show up three to 15 days after being bitten, although the odds of serious complications are low and most healthy people are able to fight off the infection with low side affects.

Symptoms can include headache, high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.

However, infection can sometimes lead to encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.

Ten percent of the West Nile encephalitis cases are fatal. Most encephalitis cases occur in the elderly.

Last year, 75 percent of West Nile encephalitis cases in Minnesota were diagnosed in people over 65, including all four deaths.

Both local cases this year come at the peak time for West Nile virus in humans, from now through mid-September, giving a reminder for all about preventative measures, said Dr. Harry Hull, state epidemiologist.

“While it can occur anywhere in the state, western and central Minnesota are at highest risk for West Nile Virus. Also, the older you are, the higher your risk of developing serious forms of illness from the virus,” Hull said.

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

The culprit . . .

The species of mosquito that is responsible for being the primary carrier of the disease in central and western Minnesota is called the Culex tarsalis, which prefers agricultural lands, according to state health officials.

In particular residents in western Minnesota face a higher risk of the disease, since mosquito monitoring sites there are detecting large numbers of the Culex tarsalis mosquito.

In 2003, of 148 total human cases reported in Minnesota, 118 cases (80 percent) occurred in residents of western or central Minnesota counties.

Together, these counties contain just 38 percent of the state’s population. In contrast, the metro area had 25 reported cases, but has 54 percent of the state’s population.

“The large numbers of Culex tarsalis that are being found remind us that we’re heading into the peak time of year for West Nile virus-related illnesses in Minnesota,” Hull said.

West Nile virus is widespread in Africa, the Middle East, and much of Europe.

The virus first appeared in North America during 1999 (New York City) and has since been found in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

In 2003, 148 human cases of West Nile virus infection were reported in Minnesota, with four deaths.

Nationwide in 2003, there were 9,858 human cases reported with 264 deaths.

More information on West Nile and other forms of mosquito-borne encephalitis, and a form to report dead birds to help with West Nile virus monitoring, are available on the Minnesota Department of Health web site, www.health.state.mn.us.

Information is also available at the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov.

People who have questions about West Nile Virus may call the Minnesota Department of Health at (612) 676-5414 or 1-877-676-5414 (outstate) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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