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Officials: West Nile strikes four

October 21, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Four Washington County residents have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to the county health department.

The first confirmed blood test was reported Aug. 28. Subsequent positive tests on other people were reported Sept. 8, Sept. 18 and Oct. 1.

Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said Monday that the patients are recovering at home. The department is not identifying the patients by name, age or hometown.

West Nile virus, which largely is spread by mosquitoes, affects the central nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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About 20 percent of the people who become infected have mild symptoms - such as a fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands or a rash - for a few days, the CDC said.

About one in 150 people will develop a severe illness - including a high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, vision loss, numbness or paralysis. Some effects could be permanent.

The remaining 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms, the CDC said.

The Washington County Health Department is awaiting confirmation of the four positive results, which came from the patients' physicians.

A Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene laboratory in Baltimore is testing the blood samples as a second opinion. MacRae said results are expected by Monday.

MacRae said the American Red Cross alerted the Health Department of a fifth positive case of West Nile, from a blood donor. However, the person did not have any symptoms, so the case was not pursued. The positive test only means that the person was exposed to West Nile virus, MacRae said.

Three horses in Washington County also have tested positive for West Nile virus. MacRae said two of those horses are recovering, but one, which was 30 years old, was euthanized.

In mid-September, a mosquito on the C&O Canal near Williamsport tested positive for West Nile virus.

Health officials say residents can cut down the potential of getting West Nile virus by eliminating sources of standing water, where mosquitoes might breed; wearing long sleeves and pants; and using insect repellants containing DEET.

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