First West Nile Virus-Related Death
A 51-year-old woman from St. Louis City died this past Friday, Sept. 14. As of Tuesday, Sept. 18, DHSS reports 30 human West Nile Virus cases. Eight of this year's cases are from the St. Louis area; five from the county and three from the city.
"We always regret having to announce disease-related deaths. Our condolences go out to the family and loved-ones of this person," said Dr. Howard Pue, state public health veterinarian.
"But we also hope that by announcing West Nile Virus-related deaths we can get people's attention and help prevent other West Nile Virus illness and death. Our message is that, even though it is getting cooler, mosquitoes that can cause West Nile Virus are still out there, and people should continue taking precautions to prevent West Nile Virus infection," added Pue.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top risk factors for serious cases of West Nile Virus are for people over the age of 50 and anyone who has had an organ transplant. Organ transplant patients and others who have suppressed immune systems often must take medications that make them more susceptible to infections, including West Nile Virus. These people may also have longer incubation periods, delayed development of infection antibodies and an increased likelihood of sever West Nile Virus disease. CDC also says about 20 percent of infections lead to a flu-like West Nile fever that severe West Nile fever and that sever West Nile disease, where the virus is found in the nervous system, occurs in less than 1 percent of infected people.
"The risk of serious West Nile Virus illness to most people is low, but a death like this serves as a solemn reminder of the importance of avoiding mosquito bites," said Pue.
"While serious complications from West Nile Virus infection tend to occur in people who have suppressed immune systems and people over the age of 50, people of all ages can become ill, so it's important to remember that avoiding mosquito bites reduces your risk of getting this disease," said Pue.
Pue also went on to say, "People need to realize that we're not out of the woods yet with West Nile Virus. We have cases each year where people become infected in September and October, we still have at least another month of West Nile Virus risk, and maybe longer if temperatures stay moderate. It will take a prolonged period of repeated hard freezes before these persistent pests give up for the season, not just a few frosty mornings. People need to continue following the very simple precautions that are so vital to preventing West Nile Virus infection."
Missouri's state and local public health officials urged Missouri residents to use insect repellents that contain DEET during the late summer and early fall season of peak virus transmission.
According to Pue, products containing DEET and picaridin are very safe when used according to the label directions.
"Mosquitoes tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, and sometimes during midday, if the wind is still or the humidity high. Using an effective insect repellent, one that contains DEET, reduces the risk of being bitten and allows people to carry out their outdoor activities with less fear of West Nile Virus infection," said Pue.
To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus, the state public health department recommends the following protective measures:
-Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those containing DEET or picaridin on clothing and exposed skin when you go outdoors. Upon returning indoors, wash exposed skin with soap and water.
-Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors. A product with a higher percentage of active ingredient is a good choice if you will be outdoors for several hours while a product with lower concentration can be used for a shorter period. Reapply if you start to be bitten by mosquitoes again.
-Permethrin is an effective pesticide designed to be sprayed only on clothing and allowed to dry before wearing. Closely follow label directions for use.
-Fix or install door and window screens to keep mosquitoes out.
-Seek out and eliminate places in your yard where mosquitoes can lay their eggs- look under shrubs and into tall flowerbeds for forgotten toys or containers that may hold water. Clean birdbaths and pet dishes once a week.
-Fall is a good time to check and clean rain gutters so that water will not collect there.
Though DHSS no longer tests dead birds for the presence of West Nile Virus, citizens can still help with tracking West Nile Virus activity in their area by reporting dead birds they see. Although bird die from many different infectious diseases as well as exposure to toxins, DHSS' Internet dead bird reporting form is being used to track reports of certain types of dead birds that may be an early sign of West Nile Virus activity in an area.
For more information on West Nile Virus, contact your local health department or the Department of Health and Senior Services at 1-866-628-9891 or 573-751-6113.