Health officials caution about West Nile

Published 8:46 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There have been no diagnosed cases of West Nile virus in Chilton County yet, and local residents can take steps to make sure they aren’t the first.

“It’s probably just a matter of time,” said Ludean Hicks, Chilton County Health Department clinic supervisor. “We haven’t had any that have been reported, but people need to be reminded.”

Alabama has seen 12 confirmed human cases of the virus, according to a Department of Public Health press release. Nine of the cases were in males, while three were in females. The ages range from 42 to 73.

One person in Montgomery County has died from the virus, and others have experienced neurological issues.

Six of the confirmed cases were in Montgomery County, three were in Mobile County and there have been one case each in Baldwin, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties.

Additional suspected cases are being investigated statewide.

About 1 in 5 people who are infected with WNV will develop symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Less than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

When a person is infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment for these illnesses can substantially lower the risk of developing severe disease. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to WNV will die. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, WNV and other mosquito-borne viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes after they feed on birds. The same mosquitoes can then infect mammals, particularly humans and horses.

For WNV and EEE in humans, there are no commercially available medications for treatment or vaccines for prevention. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care. Anyone who has symptoms that cause concern should contact a health care provider.