Since Vermont reported their first West Nile virus (WNV) case in 2002, the Green Mountain State has only seen 10 human cases through 2015, reporting no cases during the previous two years.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported the second human WNV case of the year and the second case in Windsor County in a southeastern part of the state.
The individual was hospitalized in mid-July and was diagnosed with neuroinvasive West Nile virus disease, which is a more serious form of the illness that affects the nervous system.
West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitos that carry West Nile virus can be found throughout the state. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets began conducting mosquito surveillance throughout the state in June. So far this season no mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
While most people who are infected do not become ill, about 20 percent develop symptoms including high fever, muscle aches, headache and fatigue. Fewer than 1 percent who are infected develop the more severe illness that affects the nervous system and can be fatal. When the nervous system is involved, symptoms may include disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.
In years past, West Nile virus has been found in every county in Vermont and the risk of illness has typically been highest in the late summer. “The fact that two residents from Windsor County have fallen ill this early in the year is unusual”, said Bradley Tompkins, infectious disease epidemiologist. “It is important for people across the state, particularly those in the Windsor County area, to take the appropriate steps now to prevent mosquito bites.”
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