St. Louis woman dies of West Nile-related illness

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A 51-year-old St. Louis woman has died from a West Nile virus-related illness, Missouri's first confirmed death tied to the virus this year, a state health official said Wednesday.

Health officials did not release the woman's name, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified her as Deborah Reisinger-Krebs, after her family confirmed the cause of death.

Reisinger-Krebs underwent a double lung transplant about 15 years ago, which weakened her immune system. Even the common cold, allergies or infection could compromise her health, family and friends said.

Thirty cases of West Nile infections in humans have been reported in Missouri this year, said Karen Yates, vector-borne disease program coordinator for the state.

Those include eight cases in each of the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. Boone and Cole counties in mid-Missouri had six cases combined. Joplin had four, and Johnson, Scotland, Buchanan and Greene counties had one each.

People contract West Nile after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Last year, the state recorded 62 cases of West Nile virus and five deaths. In 2005, 30 cases and three deaths were reported.

The Centers for Disease Control says about 20 percent of infections lead to a flu-like West Nile fever. The CDC says that severe West Nile disease, where the virus is found in the nervous system, occurs in less than 1 percent of infected people.

People over age 50 and those who have had organ transplants and others with suppressed immune systems are at higher risk.

One of the best ways to protect against West Nile virus at home is to eliminate mosquito-breeding habitat, such as tires and clutter in the yard that hold water. When outdoors, wear insect repellant with one of two active ingredients -- DEET or Picaridin.

"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," state public health veterinarian Howard Pue said.

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