The Department of Health today reported this year's first human case of West Nile virus in Pennsylvania. The individual is a 69-year-old man from Philadelphia County.
West Nile virus is spread to people and animals by infected mosquitoes. Usually, the infection does not result in any illness. Older adults and persons with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of becoming ill after a West Nile infection.
A severe West Nile infection can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. People with encephalitis may experience high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. Anyone with any of these symptoms should immediately contact their health care provider.
A milder form of infection is known as West Nile fever. In addition to fever, people with this form of the disease may also experience headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands.
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. For severe cases, hospitalization is needed and illness can be associated with long-term disabilities and death.
Since West Nile was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2000, the virus has been found in all areas of the state and has returned each summer.
Statistics from recent years include:
The department recommended these simple precautions to prevent mosquito bites, particularly for those most at risk which include the elderly and those with compromised immune systems:
Pennsylvanians can also reduce the risk of West Nile virus by eliminating the places where mosquitoes breed. Here are some simple steps that can be taken around the house:
For more information about West Nile virus, including current test results for mosquitoes, birds and horses, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us or call the Department of Health at 1-877-PA HEALTH.
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