Lab tests show girl, 6, likely to have West Nile

Saturday, August 16, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A 6-year-old Putnam County girl has been confirmed to have Missouri's first probable case of West Nile virus this year, the state health department said Friday.

The girl's symptoms of muscle aches, fever and a severe headache had been reported in July as either West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis, both of which are mosquito-borne illnesses. Lab tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the girl probably had West Nile virus, the health department said.

Health officials said the girl is recovering.

Last year, Missouri had 168 human cases of West Nile virus, including seven deaths.

Dr. Howard Pue, the state public health veterinarian, said August and September are the prime time for the disease.

"We are just now entering mosquito-breeding season, so female mosquitoes will be looking for blood meals, which means they will be biting more," Pue said. "Now is the time to be even more careful about mosquito control and protection."

Mosquitoes transfer the virus to humans and horses after biting infected birds. It cannot be transmitted from person to person or from birds to people. In extreme cases, the virus can cause brain inflammation. More routine symptoms include fever, headaches and body aches that generally last for a few days.

Last year, 4,156 human cases of West Nile virus were reported in 44 states. So far this year, there have been 446 human cases of the virus in 24 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of this year's cases have occurred in Colorado.

Also Friday, the Department of Health and Senior Services said that a 54-year-old Butler County woman did not have eastern equine encephalitis as initially reported by the department three weeks ago. Further tests by the CDC came up negative for the disease, which also is transmitted by mosquitoes and has a higher death risk than West Nile virus.

To reduce the chance of mosquito bites, people are encouraged to get rid of old tires, containers and debris that can hold water and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. People also are encouraged to wear insect repellent containing the chemical DEET, especially during high activity times for mosquitoes such as dawn and dusk.

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