Health officials confirm case of human West Nile virus in Bourbon County

gkocher1@herald-leader.comSeptember 24, 2012 

  • Ways to avoid West Nile virus

    ■ The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

    ■ When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient.

    ■ Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times, or consider staying indoors during these hours.

    ■ Make sure you have good screens on windows and doors to keep out mosquitoes.

    ■ Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when not in use.

    Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A case of human West Nile virus has been confirmed in Bourbon County, a health official said Monday.

The infection was confirmed last week by Bourbon Community Hospital in Paris, and the hospital informed the Bourbon County Health Department, said Tom Skeen, director of the health department.

Skeen did not know whether the person infected was a man or woman, but he said the person apparently is doing well after taking antibiotics. The hospital declined to release any information.

Skeen said he couldn't recall another confirmed case of West Nile in Bourbon County.

"I know there is a decent chance that this person contracted it from out of state, but I don't believe it was the Dallas area," Skeen said. "We think it was contracted out of state, but you can never be 100 percent sure about that."

Texas, and especially the Dallas area, has had the largest outbreak of West Nile in years. It has reported 1,225 cases and 50 deaths as of Sept. 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, there have been 3,142 cases of human infection and 134 deaths this year, the highest numbers reported since 2003.

In August, the mayor of Dallas declared a state of emergency and authorized the first aerial spraying of a pesticide in the city since 1966.

There has been some mosquito spraying in Bourbon County "at various times" this year, Skeen said.

"The health department doesn't actually do the spraying, but we contact the people that do, and we're working on a schedule for the fall," he said.

Previously Kentucky has reported six cases of human West Nile infection this year and no deaths. There has been one case each in Henry, Kenton, Laurel and Wayne counties, and two in Jefferson County, according to the CDC.

Experts say the mild winter, early spring and hot summer helped stimulate mosquito breeding and the spread of the virus. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, and the insects then spread the virus to humans and other animals when they bite.

West Nile virus was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but no cases were reported in the United States until 1999 in New York. The virus gradually spread across the country.

It peaked in 2002 and 2003, with nearly 3,000 reports of severe illness and more than 260 deaths. Last year was mild, with fewer than 700 cases.

Only about one in five infected people gets sick. Early symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches. Some people recover with in days. But one in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

The virus is most often spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. But in a small number of cases, the virus has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breast feeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.

The virus is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.

The virus also can infect horses. Kentucky experienced 513 equine cases of the disease in 2002 and 102 cases in 2003. The state recorded one equine case in 2011, in Fleming County.

There have been 12 confirmed equine cases this year, said Edward "Rusty" Ford, equine programs manager for the Kentucky Office of the State Veterinarian. The first cases were reported in August.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305.Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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