PDT Staff Writer
In what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has called the worst summer for the West Nile virus in U.S. history, Scioto County has been thankfully spared any any cases to date.
Other areas of Ohio have not been so lucky. In July, the Ohio Department of Health confirmed the state’s first West Nile case of 2012 in Clermont County and as of Saturday, three more cases were reported in northwestern Ohio’s Lucas County.
Saturday’s three cases brings the total of human cases in Ohio to 36, with no fatalities yet attributed to the virus according to the ODH.
Scioto County Health Commissioner Aaron Adams said most people that contract the virus, do not know they have it.
“Most people are not even hospitalized who get it,” Adams said. “The people most at risk are the young or the very old and ill.”
The mosquito-borne virus typically sees cases spike in August and September and according to Dr. Thomas Carter, Emergency Department Physician at Southern Ohio Medical Center, the more mild form of West Nile that rarely causes hospital visits is called West Nile fever.
Symptoms of the less severe cases include abdominal pain, back pain, diarrhea, fever, headaches, lack of appetite, muscle aches, nausea and sore throat. Carter said those symptoms tend to last three to six days.
The more rare cases include much more serious symptoms.
“More severe cases of West Nile can be life threatening, and may be called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis, depending on what part of the body is affected,” Carter said. “Symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, muscle weakness, stiff neck, high fever and head pains. These symptoms need prompt attention.”
Echoing Adams’ comments on those most at risk, Carter added those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of contracting the virus’ more severe symptoms.
Adams said the dry weather has caused there to be less standing, stagnant water where mosquitoes usually spawn, which is perhaps a reason Scioto County and the surrounding counties have not had any reported cases.
In Texas, the mayor of Dallas ordered increased insecticidal spraying earlier this month despite skepticism from officials over the other health problems additional spraying may cause. Locally, increased spraying is unlikely.
“We have no plans to increase spraying at this time,” Adams said. “If there were cases in the area we would have to consider it, but we want to avoid spraying much more if possible. If there were more ill people it would probably be our approach to do more than simple spraying for prevention.”
Adams advised simple prevention methods such as wearing long-sleeved shirts, cotton pants and using insect repellent if outdoors after sunset.
Carter’s advice is to be proactive in preventing potential spawning points.
“To protect yourself from West Nile, you should try to avoid having standing water on your property,” he said. “Look for plant saucers, pop bottles, old tires, bird baths and trash cans because these can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”
According to information available on the CDC’s website, cdc.gov, there have been reports of West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes in 47 states this year. A total of 1,118 cases of the virus in people have been reported to the CDC as well as 41 deaths.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.