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Franklin Co. woman confirmed to have West Nile virus

September 28, 2004|by DON AINES

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Monday the first confirmed case of human West Nile virus in Franklin County this year, a 75-year-old woman who was hospitalized in early September.

The unidentified woman has since been released from the hospital and was recuperating at home, said Jessica Seiders, a department spokeswoman.

This year, however, the state has seen a precipitous drop in the number of West Nile cases in humans, Seiders said. The woman was only the seventh confirmed case of the disease in Pennsylvania, compared to 237 in 2003, eight of whom died, she said.

Six cases of West Nile virus in humans were confirmed in Franklin County in 2003, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Web site.

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Seiders said the virus was first detected in 2000 in birds, mosquitoes and a horse, but no humans. The next year, three human cases were confirmed and the number jumped to 62 cases with nine deaths in 2002.

Seiders said the department is "not 100 percent sure" why the number of cases has dropped so sharply in 2004. One reason is that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and county coordinators for the health department have been "more proactive in spraying for some of the mosquitoes known to carry the virus."

Another factor may have been the weather this past summer, which was less hot and humid, she said. Although rainfall was plentiful, she said downpours might have served to flush out areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed.

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