Pennsylvania Confirms First Human West Nile Virus Case

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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State Health Secretary reported this year’s first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Pennsylvania. The number of cases of West Nile disease has declined significantly in the past five years however, the emergence of this case is evidence that West Nile is still around and people should be cautious.

West Nile virus is spread to people and animals by infected mosquitoes. Usually, the infection does not result in any illness. Older adults and persons with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of becoming ill after a West Nile infection.

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The disease can take two forms; the milder of which is known as West Nile fever. In addition to fever, people with this form of the disease may also experience headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands.

The more severe form of West Nile infection is known as encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain). People with encephalitis may experience high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and coma.

Anyone with any of these symptoms should immediately contact their health care provider. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. For severe cases, hospitalization is needed and illness can be associated with long-term disabilities and death.

Since West Nile was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2000, the virus has been found in all areas of the state and has returned each summer. In 2008, there were 14 human West Nile Virus cases that resulted in one death. In 2007, there were 10 human cases and no deaths. In 2006, there were nine human cases and two deaths. In 2005, there were 25 human cases and two deaths. In 2004, there were 15 human cases and two deaths.

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