A confirmed human death from West Nile Virus has state health officials issuing warnings about the disease.
Karen Yates with the State Health Department says a human death from West Nile is very rare. Yates points out the vast majority of people infected never even know it. West Nile often creates only flu-like symptoms in people. They might experience headaches, a fever, aches and chills, perhaps even intestinal trouble. Only about 20% of those infected experience severe health problems. And only a fraction, less than one percent, dies from West Nile Virus.
Those most susceptible to severe sickness from West Nile include people over 50 in poor health or those who have had an organ transplant. Organ transplant patients have a weakened immune system. That was the case of the confirmed death. She was a 51-year-old resident of St. Louis who had had a double-lung transplant 15 years earlier.
State officials say that even though September and October are cooler months, cases of West Nile Virus still occur this time of year. Missouri residents are advised to use insect repellents that contain DEET or its equivalent, such as picaridin, to ward off mosquitoes. Also, residents can wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts to reduce the likelihood of infection.
The state no longer tests dead birds for the presence of West Nile Virus, but citizens are asked to report dead birds. Reporting forms are available on the Department of Health and Senior Services Web site as are tips to keep from being infected. Dead birds, especially crows and blue jays, can be an indication of an increase in West Nile Virus activity.