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Dane County Man with West Nile Virus Dies

For more information contact:

Gareth R. Johnson, Administrator, Dane County Public Health, (608) 334-5875
Sharyn Wisniewski, (608) 712-1950

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9/7/2002

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
County Executive Falk Says Risk of Disease is Very Small

A 93 year old man from the Town of Madison has died in the first confirmed Wisconsin case of a human fatality related to the West Nile Virus (WNV), Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said at a morning news conference today. She was joined at the conference by Gareth Johnson, administrator of the Dane County Human Services Department’s Division of Public Health.

"The fact that someone with West Nile Virus has died, while tragic, doesn't change the level of risk for the community at large, and that level is very small," said Falk. Even in areas where WNV has been found, very few mosquitoes, less than 1%, become infected with WNV and less than 1% of people bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito will become sick.

WNV is spread to humans and other mammals, as well as birds, through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no human to human transmission of the disease.

“While the risk is small, we do want people to know what they can do to protect themselves," said Falk.

The man sought medical treatment on August 29. "He was very ill when he was seen by doctors who suspected he may have West Nile Virus," said Johnson. "The doctors ordered blood tests which confirmed West Nile Virus late Friday evening.” The man died shortly after seeking medical treatment, said Johnson.

State statutes concerning communicable diseases prohibit county officials from releasing the name of the individual.

Humans who contract WNV may experience mild symptoms including headache, fever, muscle pains, a skin rash, or swollen lymph nodes. In rare instances, WNV causes more serious disease with symptoms of a high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and, in rare cases, death.

Infants, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill from WNV.

When illness from a WNV infection does occur, it takes from three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito for symptoms to appear. “There is no vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus in humans or specific treatment for those infected with WNV, but physicians may treat patients to minimize symptoms of the infection,” said Johnson.

If you think you may have been infected with WNV, contact your physician. West Nile Virus can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. Staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active is advised. If you must be outdoors, wear protective clothing such as long pants, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, and socks. Also, consider using an insect repellant containing DEET. Make sure to follow all label directions when using insect repellent.

Mosquitoes need standing water to lay their eggs and complete their life cycle to become adults. Residents are asked to eliminate standing water that collects on their property.

At home, make sure that doors and windows have tightly fitting screens. Repair or replace all screens that have tears or holes.

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