Human West Nile cases confirmed in state

From Staff Reports

  The Department of Health confirmed two cases of the human form of West Nile virus in Tennessee this year. An adult female in Greene County and an adult male from Shelby County have tested positive for the virus at the DOH laboratory in Nashville. Both patients were hospitalized with symptoms of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, but have subsequently been discharged and are recovering.
  According to State Epidemiologist Allen Craig in the report released by the state's Department of Health, late summer and early fall are peak times for people to get West Nile Virus. "It's important to take steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites when you're outdoors, particularly during the times when mosquitoes are most active and most likely to bite - around dawn, dusk and at night," said Craig.
   West Nile virus activity in Tennessee has been much less intense this summer than the previous two years. So far in 2004, the virus has been found in 15 birds and 2 horses in the state. There are some areas of Shelby County, however, that have significant levels of West Nile virus as indicated by mosquito pool testing. To this point, all mosquito pools tested from Jackson, Nashville and Knoxville have been negative.
  August and September are generally peak months for human cases, but, year-to-date, only about half of states have reported human cases of West Nile virus. Around 500 cases have been reported up to now, with about 85 percent of those concentrated in three states -- California, Arizona, and Colorado.
  West Nile, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is a potentially serious illness spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It cannot be spread from casual contact such as touching or kissing. While contact in humans is usually not serious, it can sometimes lead to inflammation of the brain. The risk of severe illness and death is highest for people over 50 years old, although people of all ages can become ill.
  To reduce the risk of being bitten:
   Use a mosquito repellent containing DEET whenever you are outdoors. Even spending a short time outdoors can be long enough to get a mosquito bite.
  Wearing the right clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.
  Beware of peak mosquito hours. Between dusk and dawn are peak mosquito biting times for many species of mosquitos.
  Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that hold water. Make sure doors and windows are screened if you keep them open.