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Public health director reports first case of West Nile virus in Niagara County

by jmaloni

Submitted

Thu, Oct 10th 2013 06:30 pm

Daniel J. Stapleton, director of the Niagara County Department of Health, reported today the first laboratory-confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Niagara County for 2013. The affected individual, a young adult male, is recovering at home after being hospitalized for illness clinically consistent with West Nile virus infection. The individual resides in Gasport, where it is believed he contracted the virus. To date, Niagara County has reported no West Nile virus-positive mosquito pools, infected birds or positive horses.

West Nile is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected mosquitos. The virus can cause serious illness and, in some cases, death. It is estimated that 20 percent of those who become infected will develop clinically noticeable signs and symptoms of West Nile virus disease. Mild signs and symptoms include fever, headache and body aches, and occasionally, skin rash and swollen lymph glands.

"Most people infected with West Nile virus will experience mild or no symptoms," Stapleton said, "But some can develop severe symptoms, including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis."

The symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Stapleton urges individuals who are most at risk, especially those ages 50 and up, and those with compromised immune systems, to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

"Residents who may have been bitten by mosquitoes and experience West Nile virus signs and symptoms should visit their health care providers to be medically evaluated," he advised.

"Individuals in the communities we serve need to be aware they can take action to help reduce the mosquito population where they live," Stapleton said. "This is the first critical step in reducing the risk of West Nile virus. I am asking residents to reduce the mosquito population around their homes now, by eliminating stagnant water where mosquitoes breed."

The following activities can help with this effort:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
  • Empty, clean and replace fresh water in birdbaths daily.
  • Remove all discarded tires on the property.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds and keep shrubs and grass trimmed.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.

"The second important step in reducing risk of West Nile virus infections in our communities is to avoid mosquito bites," Stapleton said.

To prevent mosquitos from biting:

  • Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time, and when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Use mosquito-repellent when outdoors, following label directions carefully.
  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.

"Mosquitoes will continue to be a problem until the weather changes with the first hard frost," Stapleton said. "Until then, the Health Department and the communities we serve can work together. With a common sense approach to West Nile virus risk reduction, we can assure a safe and healthy environment by taking simple steps to prevent mosquitos from breeding and biting."

For additional information about West Nile virus, click on the following links:

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division at 716-439-7444.

For medical questions or to report West Nile virus cases, call the Niagara County Department of Health Nursing Division at 716-278-1900.

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