Monroe County has the only human fatality from West Nile virus so far this year and two of the four cases of West Nile virus reported outside of New York City, according to state Department of Health data.
The death occurred sometime between Aug. 23 and Sept. 4, according to a statewide mosquito-borne disease activity report posted Sept. 6and confirmed Wednesday by the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
“Since we announced the first human case on Aug. 22, subsequent to that there was a second individual,” said senior public health educator and department spokesman John Ricci. He said the person became seriously ill and eventually died from complications of West Nile virus.
No details about the death
Ricci would only say that the person who died was an older adult and a county resident. No information was available about where the person resided or whether the individual had an underlying health condition.
The county health department did not have records of any previous deaths from West Nile. It investigates cases as they occur but does track each case to its conclusion.
Last month, the county health department issued its annual warning about West Nile,saying that there had been a confirmed case in the county and urging residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes carrying West Nile are active in late summer and early fall. Risk continues until the first heavy frost. Ricci said this is the peak time for risk to humans.
As of Sept. 6, there were 12 cases statewide, with eight in New York City. That Monroe has half of the cases upstate is more a function of small numbers than any outbreak, Ricci said.
“If there were 90 cases and we had 70, there would be more meaning to that,” he said. “Don’t read anything into that there’s greater risk in Monroe County than anywhere else.”
Ricci said the state report lags by a week, and he said there are likely to be more cases throughout upstate in subsequent weeks.
No cases were reported in Livingston, Ontario, Genesee or Wayne counties through Sept. 4.
West Nile is not transmitted from person to person.
Overall risk of West Nile is low
Less than 1 percent of mosquitoes carry the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of people who are bitten, less than 1 percent become seriously ill. People older than 50 and those with chronic illness are at highest risk for serious illness. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile, but people who develop symptoms such as high fever and headache should see a doctor.
People at risk for developing serious complications are more likely to be older, male and have high blood pressure or diabetes, according to a report from California health officials that was published in 2007 by the CDC.
The majority of people bitten by an infected mosquito will have no symptoms. About 20 percent will have mild flu-like symptoms.
How to protect against bites
Health officials provide the following suggestions to reduce the risk of a mosquito bite:
- Minimize outdoor activity at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET. Be certain to follow manufacturer’s instructions and wash off the repellent once inside for the evening. There also are repellents with more natural ingredients.
- Drain standing water and empty any containers that can hold water to reduce mosquito breeding areas. Most mosquitoes will bite near where they hatched.
- Make sure windows have screens that are in good condition.
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