Two may have West Nile Virus

September 19, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

Preliminary test results indicate Washington County and Frederick County may have their first cases of West Nile Virus in humans, Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel said Wednesday.

More definitive test results may not be available until next week, Christoffel said.

He said he did not know if either person was hospitalized or when the tests were conducted. The names of the doctors who requested the tests have not been made public, he said.

The Washington County patient was over 50 years old.

The Frederick County resident was taken to Washington County Hospital by ambulance, he said.

The Health Department did not have further information, including the genders of the two people or what symptoms they displayed, Christoffel said.


Attempts by the Health Department to talk to the doctors had not been successful by Wednesday, he said.

Seven Washington County residents have been tested for the mosquito-borne virus, but until this week all tests came back negative, said Laurie Bucher, the Washington County Health Department's director of environmental health.

Two horses and 30 birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in Washington County, Bucher said.

Some who contract the virus experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache and muscle aches, Bucher said. In rare cases, the virus can result in high fever, disorientation and even death, she said.

People older than 50 and those with weak immune systems are most susceptible to medical problems related to the virus, Bucher said.

There is no vaccine against West Nile Virus for humans.

As part of its efforts to combat the problem, the Health Department is trying to capture local mosquitoes carrying the virus, she said. Tests came back negative for the virus on mosquitoes trapped at two locations in Washington County but more trapped mosquitoes are being submitted for testing this week, she said.

Over the next few weeks, as the nights get cooler, mosquito activity will decrease, she said.

Because mosquitoes can congregate in stagnant water found in tires, Christoffel and Bucher urged county residents to get rid of any old tires they have during a Washington County-sponsored Tire Amnesty Day - Sept. 28 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Tuesday, the Washington County Commissioners agreed to a request by Christoffel to expand from one to seven the number of sites where county residents can, at no charge, dispose of up to six tires. The drop-off sites are: Forty-West Landfill, North Hagerstown High School, South Hagerstown High School, Williamsport High School and the Highway Department shops at Keedysville, Greensburg and Indian Springs.

The commissioners turned down Christoffel's request to increase the number of tires that could be dropped off for free.

Only Washington County residents can drop off tires under the amnesty program. No return trips are allowed by any vehicle. Participants should be prepared to show proper vehicle registration, officials said.

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