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First Human West Nile Virus Death of 2006 Confirmed

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 08:00pm

Middle Tennessee Resident Dies

 Nashville, August 31, 2006

The Tennessee Department of Health announced today that a resident of Rutherford County has died of West Nile virus.  The patient, who died earlier this week in a middle Tennessee area hospital, was over 70 years old and became ill in mid-August. 

West Nile virus (WNV) is one of several mosquito-borne viruses in the United States that can infect people.  Since its emergence in New York in 1999, West Nile virus has infected people in most of the lower 48 states.  In 2005, in Tennessee, there were 18 human cases and one death. Most of these patients lived in West Tennessee.  Thus far in 2006 there have been over 500 WNV cases reported nationwide. In Tennessee, two other patients who live in Shelby County have been reported with WNV this year. 

“Late summer is prime time for West Nile virus infections. All Tennesseans need to take precautions to reduce their risk of contracting this potentially serious illness,” said Allen Craig, M.D., State Epidemiologist. 

Approximately 80 percent of people who are infected with WNV by an infected mosquito will have no symptoms and will not know they have been infected. The remaining 20 percent may experience a range of flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, weakness, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and pains, and rash. In severe cases patients may experience confusion, convulsions and brain swelling. Persons over 50 years of age are at highest risk of developing the most severe form of the disease, and persons over the age of 70 with other health problems are at greatest risk for death.  

During the upcoming holiday weekend and through the end of October, the public should take these simple steps to help reduce mosquito bites and mosquito breeding: 

·      Use a mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus whenever outdoors. Even spending a short time outdoors can be long enough to get a mosquito bite. Follow use instructions on the product.

·      Wearing the right clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. When possible, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.

·      Be aware of peak mosquito hours. Peak mosquito biting times are between dusk and dawn for many species of mosquitoes.

·      Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that collect water, including toys, bird baths, old tires, buckets and other items that might hold standing water.

·      Make sure doors and windows are screened if you keep them open and repair any damage to screens.

For more information about WNV, visit the Department of Health’s Web site at http://www.tn.gov/health/ and click on the “Health Topics/Fact Sheets” section.

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