West Nile Virus hits Wood County

Kyle Reynolds and Kyle Reynolds

One of two confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Wood County has resulted in the death of an 81 year-old woman.

The virus’ numbers have dropped nationwide, but experts know the virus is still serious and people should be aware.

The virus is carried by mosquitoes and transmission of the virus to people occurs when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. The group at highest risk for contracting the virus is the elderly, but everyone can take proper precaution.

Bret Atkins, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, recommends avoiding the outdoors from dusk to dawn or wearing long sleeves and pants if outdoors. Also wearing lighter colored clothing and mosquito repellent should help keep mosquitoes away.

Removing standing water is important to prevent more mosquito breeding.

Craig Niese, sanitarian for the Findlay Health District, says, mosquitoes carrying West Nile are container breeders, meaning they breed in standing water in puddles, gutters, and pools. It’s important to remove standing water from your property.

Mary Dennis, epidemiologist at the Wood County Health Department, says, mosquito breeding can be prevented.

‘You can prevent mosquito larva from growing by putting larvacide in water,’ Dennis said.

According to Niese, unless someone is an expert they rarely know what symptoms to look for.

‘Most people don’t even realize they contracted West Nile,’ Niese said. ‘Some may have just a small fever and some may have inflammation of the brain that can result in death.’

The symptoms aren’t always noticeable and might not be there.

Common symptoms are typical flu-like symptoms, but many people won’t have any symptoms.

‘Probably about 80 percent have no symptoms’hellip; but it can be serious for a high risk person,’ Dennis said.

The first cases of West Nile Virus in the U.S. were seen in 1999.

‘It’s new to the U.S., it was introduced in 1999 in New York, there were several cases there, and then in later years it marched across the country bit by bit,’ Dennis said.

Over the past few years the number of West Nile cases has dropped in Ohio. In 2002, there were over 400 cases and this year there have been 40 cases with four deaths.

Dennis believes the drop is due to people becoming immune to the virus and people taking proper precautions against the virus.

‘As people become exposed they become immune, once you’ve had it you are immune to it, so enough people may have the immunity,’ Dennis said. ‘Educational efforts may be paying off and people may be more cautious.’

But Atkins believes the drop is due to changes in weather conditions.

‘The mosquitoes are a lot more active in very dry conditions and 2002 was a very dry summer,’ Atkins said.