Reports of West Nile Virus are moving closer to home for Woonsocket residents - the Rhode Island Department of Health reports a man in his 20s from Providence has been diagnosed with meningitis resulting from a West Nile Virus (WNV) infection. The man is now recovering.
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), as of Sept. 11, 48 states have reported West Nile virus infections in mosquitos, birds, and people. West Nile Virus, unknown in the US until the late 1990s, is now detected throughout the nation in birds or mosquitos or in people or other animals every year.
The CDC reports that about 20 percent of people who become infected with West Nile Virus develop West Nile Fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash (on the trunk of the body) and swollen lymph glands. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported being sick for several weeks.
Severe cases of the disease, referred to as neuroinvasive disease, (including West Nile encephalitis, meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis) are marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. About 1 in 150 people infected with the West Nile virus develop a severe illness, the CDC reports.
“Although the calendar tells us that summer officially ends this week, the threat of mosquito-borne illness lingers until the first hard frost,” said Michael Fine, MD, director of the RI Department of Health. “I encourage all Rhode Islanders to continue to take measures to protect themselves and their children from mosquito bites.”
Avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, is an important protection from the threat of mosquito-borne illness. The Health Department recently advised school districts and city and town officials to implement “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities, such as athletic practices and games, to earlier times that help athletes, coaches and spectators avoid exposure during peak mosquito activity times.
In addition, the department encourages all Rhode Islanders to take personal protection measures, such as wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and using bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET, when they must be outside during dawn or dusk hours. Other important protection measures include placing mosquito netting over infant playpens and carriages when outside, and ensuring that screens are in good repair. It is also important to eliminate standing water in yards or in other public gathering places.
Certain mosquito pools in Rhode Island have recently tested positive for WNV and EEE. For information about mosquito-borne diseases, visit www.health.ri.gov/disease/carriers/mosquitoes/