The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) today reported the first fatality in the state due to the mosquito borne virus, West Nile virus (WNV). The patient was a 91-year-old man from Williams County who was hospitalized with neuroinvasive WNV (encephalitis).
Health officials note that there have been eight reported human cases of WNV in Ohio this year in six counties – Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Lorain and Williams. In recent years, Ohio reported 11 human WNV cases in 2014, 24 in 2013, and 122 in 2012.
“This time of the year, the risk of West Nile virus infection increases, and individuals should take reasonable precautions to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites,” said ODH Medical Director Dr. Mary DiOrio.
Nationally as of Aug. 18, 210 cases of West Nile virus disease in people have been reported to CDC.
West Nile virus was first detected in North America in 1999, and has since spread across the continental United States and Canada.
What are the symptoms of West Nile virus disease? The CDC breaks it down by severity:
No symptoms in most people. Most people (70-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.
Febrile illness in some people. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
Severe symptoms in a few people. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.
Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.
People over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today