Four more in state suspected of having the West Nile virus

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- A day after word that that an elderly St. Louis woman may have become the first Missourian to die from the West Nile virus, health officials announced Tuesday that four more St. Louisans may have been infected with the mosquito-borne illness.

The latest cases bring to 11 the number of Missourians who have preliminarily tested positive for the virus. Samples from those cases have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for confirmation, which could take eight days.

On Monday, St. Louis health officials announced that an independent lab test showed that Cora Walton, a 75-year-old retired nurse from St. Louis, died Aug. 7 of the West Nile virus.

The cases revealed Tuesday involve a 79-year-old man, a 39-year-old man, a 31-year-old woman and another woman of unspecified age, all of St. Louis.

All of those victims have returned home from the hospital and appear to be doing well, said Mike Thomas, the St. Louis Health Department's director.

Earlier, preliminary tests had shown that six people in the St. Louis area and a 60-year-old woman in Washington County had tested positive for the virus. Also last week, officials said a Massachusetts woman contracted the virus while visiting St. Louis in late July.

Nearly 200 people tested

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Senior Services, has said nearly 200 Missourians had been tested for the virus through state labs. The state agency also reported at least 89 cases of birds killed by West Nile in 28 counties and the city of St. Louis, and about 30 cases of horses infected with the virus in 16 counties. Some of those horses also have died.

"We understand the rising number of West Nile virus cases is going to concern people," said Dr. Howard Pue, chief of the Missouri health department's Section of Communicable Disease Control and Veterinary Public Health. "However, this is still a rare disease from which almost all people fully recover."

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