“This is very unfortunate, and though not common, we do know that people can die from West Nile Virus infection” said DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Dr. Howard Haft. “While the virus can occur symptom-free in people and resolve itself naturally in a few weeks, it can cause sickness or death, typically in older people.”
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) announced the first confirmed West Nile Virus death (WNV) in Maryland this year. The infected individual, who died Tuesday, September 8, was an older adult who lived in Baltimore County. The death was confirmed to be attributed to WNV late Monday, September 14.
There are currently 29 confirmed cases of WNV in Maryland, compared with the six that were reported during last year’s season. WNV has been detected in mosquito pools collected in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. A mosquito pool is a group of mosquitoes collected at one of several trap sites across the state.
WNV is a disease that is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected animal. In humans, WNV generally causes either no symptoms or mild, flu-like illness; but it can also be fatal. People older than 60 have the greatest risk of developing severe disease. People with compromised immune systems also may be at high risk of WNV infection.
“This time of year, everyone – especially our elderly population – needs to wrap up to protect themselves against West Nile,” said Gregory Wm. Branch, Director of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services.