OREGON COUNTY -- The first reported case of the west Nile virus this year was in northern Missouri and the second case was reported last week in neighboring Howell County.
They are the only cases of west Nile virus to have been reported in humans this year in Missouri. Oregon County Health Department Administrator Sheila Russell said Oregon County has not reported a case in humans but a horse in the county has been infected.
"The west Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes to birds, various animals and humans. Most persons infected with the virus show no symptoms, although occasional infections can result in serious illness and even death," Russell said.
She said the virus has been commonly found in humans, birds and other animals in Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Asia and the Middle East, but until 1999 it had not been documented in the Western Hemisphere. Russell said the U.S. viral strain is most closely related genetically to strains found in the Middle East.
The Howell County man who tested positive for the disease through a blood test was in his late 60s. Health department officials said he was treated at Ozarks Medical Center and released.
Russell said this recent case of the disease in an area as close to Oregon County as Howell County should remind county residents that west Nile is spread to humans after they are bitten by an infected, mosquito and there are steps that can be taken to protect themselves.
Russell said many ways to reduce the risk of being infected include eliminating mosquito habitat by removing standing water anywhere on their property.
"Old tires, cans, wading pools this time of year should all have any water collected in them removed. The water attracts mosquitoes," Russell said. She added that gutters need to be checked to make sure they are draining properly, and the water in birdbaths and pet dishes needs to be changed daily.
Russell said mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk.
Russell said state health officials have said most infected people remain symptom free or may develop a mild flu-like illness, but the elderly and those with weakened immune systems may become seriously ill. She said symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. She said more serious cases may include inflammation of the brain, high fever, neck stiffness.
Thayer veterinarian Greg Langley said, "People cannot spread the virus to other people and horses cannot spread the virus to other horses."
Russell said anyone with any question about the west Nile virus can call her office at Alton at 417-778-7450 or the Thayer office at 417-264-3113.