KDHE announces first West Nile death for 2006

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced last week that a resident of Northeast Kansas over the age of 65 has died of West Nile Virus.

The person had onset of symptoms in early July, was later hospitalized, and also had underlying health conditions.

Additional information about the person’s identity and residence will not be released due to patient confidentiality concerns.

The death is the first due to West Nile Virus to occur in 2006.

KDHE also announced two cases of West Nile Virus in Reno County residents, age 72 and 57. Both are hospitalized.

This year’s West Nile Virus case total now stands at four, including these cases and a previously announced case in a Harvey County child who was not hospitalized.

“It saddens us to learn of this death caused by West Nile Virus,” said Howard Rodenberg, director of KDHE’s Division of Health. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family affected by this loss. This reminds of the importance of taking precautions against West Nile Virus.”

West Nile Virus can be spread to people by mosquitoes that first bite an infected bird, but it is not contagious from person to person or directly from birds.

Symptoms range from mild (slight headache and low grade fever) to extreme (neurological disease-swelling of the brain or brain tissue) and in rare cases, death.

Most people have no symptoms. Once a person contracts WNV, they are considered immune to it.

KDHE recommends Kansans take the following actions to protect themselves and family members:

Use effective insect repellent with DEET or picaridin on skin.

Wear protective clothing when practical (long sleeves and pants).

Remove standing water

Use larvicide in water that cannot be removed.

Replace water in bird baths, pet bowls, and wading pools at least every three days

Limit outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Human cases are most common in the late summer and early fall months. In 2005, KDHE confirmed 25 WNV cases in humans, resulting in one death.

Eleven other states, including Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska, have each reported at least one human case of West Nile Virus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of July 25.

Twenty states, including Oklahoma, have reported West Nile Virus activity in birds, animals or mosquitoes.

Non-neuroinvasive (WNV fever) cases involve milder symptoms of the illness that may include: fever, headache, rash, general muscle aches and weakness, gastrointestinal signs and inflammation of the lymph nodes with no other likely explanation for the symptoms.

Since the symptoms are not specific, only special laboratory tests can confirm a diagnosis of WNV.

Neuroinvasive cases (WNV meningitis, WNV encephalitis, and WNV acute flaccid paralysis) involve more extreme symptoms including severe headache, high fever, difficulty walking and/or talking, coma and even death.

All WNV cases, neuroinvasive and non-neuroinvasive, should be reported to the health department.

A toll-free educational West Nile Virus Hotline is available. The number is 1-877-228-2287. KDHE also has a Web site at www.westnileks.com to provide information regarding the disease.

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