Delaware public health officials announce third case of West Nile Virus

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has announced that a third person has been infected with West Nile Virus (WNV).

An 87-year-old Kent County woman has become infected with WNV, according to public health officials, making it the state’s third human case of 2021.

The woman indicated no travel history that could have led to transmission, meaning she contracted WNV in Delaware. To protect the patient’s privacy, DPH will not provide additional information on this case.

WNV is a mosquito-borne illness that can cause serious health problems. WNV is transmitted by mosquitoes, generally in summer and fall, with a peak period for disease transmissions from mid-August to mid-October.

Nearly 80 percent of people infected with WNV will not become ill. While only a little less than 20 percent of those infected with the virus will develop West Nile fever with mild symptoms (fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash on the chest or back and swollen lymph glands), one in 150 people infected will develop severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis).

Symptoms of severe WNV infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, and/or tremors and muscle weakness. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Anyone who experiences any of these severe symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms may progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, paralysis and possibly death.

The mosquitoes that cause WNV bite primarily from dusk (evening) to dawn (morning). However, other mosquitoes that cause diseases such as chikungunya, dengue fever, and Zika can bite during the day. It is important to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent whenever you go outdoors. It’s also recommended to wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your limbs from insect bites.

For more information on what you can do to prevent West Nile Virus, visit the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s website, www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html.

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