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First West Nile virus death reported in Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Health says the state has recorded its first death this year attributed to the West Nile virus.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Department of Health has recorded its first death this year attributed to the West Nile virus.

The agency says 15 cases of the virus have been reported in Arkansas so far this year.

The Arkansas State Veterinarian Susan Weinstein says, “We don't ever release the excact locational information, because the important thing to remember is we have West Nile Virus all across the state, so everybody needs to be aware.”

There have been more than 1,100 cases reported nationwide through the middle of August. That's three times as many as usually seen at this point in the year. About half the cases are in Texas. Most West Nile infections are reported in August and September.

Weinstein says “Our interpretation of the HIPPA laws has been well established, and this has been our policy for many years, not to release information to protect the privacy of the families who have disease or to protect their privacy.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the mild winter, early spring, and very hot summer have fostered breeding of the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile.

Weinstein encourages people to wear insect repellant and drain standing water that attracts mosquitoes. "If you're concerned about your particular area, you can call your city or community to see if they're spraying, and ask them to target your neighborhood.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that William R. Spencer, 88 of Little Rock, died from West Nile virus complications.


Counties reporting West Nile virus cases, according to the CDC:

  • Columbia
  • Crawford
  • Jefferson
  • Pulaski
  • Saline
  • Sebastian
  • Union

CDC: West Nile outbreak 'one of largest' in US

ATLANTA (AP) - U.S. health officials reported Wednesday three times the usual number of West Nile cases for this time of year and one expert called it "one of the largest" outbreaks since the virus appeared in this country in 1999.

So far, 1,118 illnesses have been reported, about half of them in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. There have also been 41 deaths this year.

"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC official.

Never before have so many illnesses been reported this early, said Petersen, who oversees the CDC's mosquito-borne illness programs.

Most infections are usually reported in August and September, so it's too early to say how bad this year will end up, CDC officials said.

They think the mild winter, early spring and very hot summer have fostered breeding of mosquitoes that pick up the virus from birds they bite and then spread it to people.

West Nile virus was first reported in the U.S. in 1999 in New York, and gradually spread across the country over the years. It peaked in 2002 and 2003, when severe illnesses reached nearly 3,000 and deaths surpassed 260. Last year was mild with fewer than 700 cases.

Only about one in five infected people get sick. One in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

In recent years, cases have been scattered across the country. Hot spots are usually in southeast Louisiana, central and southern California, and areas around Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Phoenix.

Those areas seem to have a combination of factors that include the right kinds of virus-carrying mosquitoes and birds, along with large numbers of people who can be infected, health officials say.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellents, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies. Also, empty standing water from buckets, kiddie pools and other places to discourage breeding.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Prevention info from ADH

The best way to prevent West Nile virus disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Do this by  practicing the “Three D’s.”

• Drain standing water from your yard. Empty standing water in flowerpots, buckets and kiddie pools.
• Don’t go out at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes feed without protective clothing (long sleeves and pants).
• Do use insect repellents with the active ingredient DEET when you go outdoors.

Approximately one in five people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Less than one percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants are at greater risk for serious illness.

There are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, human West Nile virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care. Anyone who has symptoms that cause concern should contact a health care provider.
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