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West Nile infects Izard resident

Friday, July 16, 2004

Case among first human infections in state in 2004

The Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed that an Izard County resident is among the first in the state to be infected with the West Nile virus.

Arkansas Department of Health Communications Director Ann Wright said cases of human West Nile virus have been reported in Izard and Union counties.

Wright said federal regulations prevent the health department from releasing the names of virus victims.

She said birds have tested positive for the virus in Benton, Franklin, Johnson, Indepen-dence, Logan, Mississippi, Ouachita, Polk, Sebastian and Washington counties.

West Nile virus is spread through contact with infected mosquitoes. Birds, humans and animals that come into contact with infected mosquitoes or eat the carcasses of infected birds are at risk.

Wright said less than 1 percent of the people who are bitten by an infected mosquito contract the disease.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, muscle and joint discomfort, listlessness and in severe cases headaches due to brain swelling.

Wright said in rare cases West Nile can be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile virus numbers have been declining nationally since the virus's peak year of 2002.

Arkansas had 45 human cases of West Nile, three of which resulted in death in 2002. In 2003 26 infections were reported in Arkansas with no deaths.

Wright said West Nile infection numbers are down, but in 2003 Colorado reported 2,947 infections and 63 deaths -- a record high for a single state.

"The disease seems to be dissipating in the eastern states and growing in the western states," she said.

Humans and birds in eastern states may be acquiring natural immunity to the disease, but there is no hard data to support that conclusion, Wright said. The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to use mosquito repellent containing 35 percent Deet, eliminate any standing water in one's yard and keep all doors and windows closed from dusk till dawn.

There is no FDA approved treatment for West Nile virus.



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