The state Division of Public Health says a New Castle man has tested positive for the virus.
The Division of Public Health is announcing the state’s second human case of West Nile Virus in 2018.
A 68-year-old New Castle County man was initially hospitalized in July due to illness, and remains hospitalized due to underlying health conditions unrelated to the virus. West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness, can become serious, and DPH reminds people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Earlier this month, DPH announced that a 60-year-old Sussex County man was the first case of WNV this year. In 2017, one case was confirmed in a Kent County woman, the first such case in two years in Delaware.
“As we begin to see additional cases of West Nile virus in humans, it is critically important that Delawareans take preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “These bites can cause serious health problems, which is why we are urging everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones. Some steps you can take include using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents, wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside and using mosquito netting to protect infants in carriages, strollers and playpens.”
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Mosquito Control Section has seen an increase of West Nile virus found in wild birds and sentinel chickens. Earlier this month, the mosquito control section also found Delaware’s first EEE-positive sentinel chicken for 2018 in a station in Sussex County. Like West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis can adversely affect both humans and horses – EEE is more severe than West Nile, but fortunately much rarer. Heightened concerns over possible transmission to humans from both viruses, will continue into mid-October, until cooler temperatures start to significantly slow down both mosquito and virus activity.
To assist the state’s mosquito control efforts, and to reduce mosquito-breeding habitat for mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile, DNREC urges homeowners to practice good water sanitation on their property by eliminating standing water, particularly as might be collected in buckets, containers, uncovered trash cans, stagnant bird baths, old tires and unused swimming pools.
To avoid mosquito bites and reduce the risk of infection, individuals should also:
· When outside, wear shoes, light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants. Mosquito netting can protect one’s face and neck, and infants in carriages, strollers and playpens. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and during the early-morning hours.
· Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for reapplication times.
· Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
· Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs. Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or on cut or irritated skin. Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to the child’s face.
· Prevent mosquitoes from entering the house by using screens and keeping windows and doorways tightly sealed.
West Nile and EEE are transmitted by mosquitoes, generally in summer and fall, with a peak period for disease transmissions from mid-August to mid-October. Although nearly 80 percent of people infected with West Nile will not become ill, and only a little less than 20 percent of those infected will develop West Nile fever, with mild symptoms (fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash on the chest or back and swollen lymph glands), one in 150 people infected will develop severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis).
Symptoms of severe West Nile infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, and/or tremors and muscle weakness. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Anyone who experiences any of these severe symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms may progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, paralysis and possibly death.
Mosquitoes in Delaware also can carry other viruses that may result in death, including dengue virus. Other mosquito-borne diseases that could occur in Delaware include chikungunya, which, while rarely fatal, may result in severe and debilitating symptoms, including fever and joint pain, and Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika are rash, fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The largest health impact of the Zika virus appears to be on infants whose mothers were infected during pregnancy. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, as well as other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. To date, no cases of Zika in Delaware have been linked with local mosquito or human transmission.
While there are no vaccines against West Nile or EEE for humans, effective EEE and West Nile vaccines are available for horses through veterinarians, according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s State Veterinarian’s Office. Both West Nile and EEE cause severe, and sometimes fatal, infections in horses. Signs of infection in horses include fever (although not always with West Nile), anorexia, head pressing, depression or personality change, wobbling or staggering, weakness, blindness, convulsions, muscle spasms in the head and neck, or hind-limb weakness. If owners notice any of these signs in their horses, they should contact their veterinarian immediately.
To report suspected cases of human West Nile virus, call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 888-295-5156.
For more information about:
· Mosquito biology/ecology and control – Contact the Mosquito Control Section’s Dover office at 302-739-9917.
· Reporting West Nile-suspect wild birds, or for requests for mosquito relief – For upstate areas from Dover north, contact Mosquito Control’s Glasgow field office at 302-836-2555; for downstate areas south of Dover, contact Mosquito Control’s Milford field office at 302-422-1512.
· West Nile virus or EEE in horses and equine vaccines – Contact the Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section at 302-698-4500 or 800-282-8685 (Delaware only).