Health officials report third death due to West Nile virus

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- A third St. Louis resident has died from the West Nile virus, state health officials said Tuesday.

The latest victim was a 77-year-old who died Monday night. His name and other details were not released.

Cora Walton, 75, died Aug. 7. Henry Collins, 61, died Sept. 10 of encephalitis caused by West Nile.

A spokeswoman for the St. Louis Health Department said Collins initially was hospitalized in July and may have been the first person in the city to test positive for the virus.

All three people who have died in Missouri from the mosquito-borne disease were St. Louisans. Officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services weren't sure why St. Louis has been hit so hard, compared to the rest of the state. Spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said officials are investigating.

"I don't know that we have any definite answer at this point," she said.

Gonder said that one factor may be population. There are more people in St. Louis than other state areas, so more cases--and deaths--in the area are to be expected, she said.

Ninety-eight test positive

So far, 98 people in Missouri have tested positive for West Nile. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 1,500 cases nationwide, including 71 deaths.

West Nile first appeared in the United States in 1999, when seven people infected with the virus in New York died. The virus is most dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems.

West Nile symptoms usually occur seven to 10 days after infection. Symptoms are often similar to the flu. But in rare cases, the virus can cause encephalitis -- a swelling of the brain that can be fatal.

People can reduce their chances of getting the West Nile virus by using insect repellents containing DEET.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: