3 cases of West Nile reported in Alachua County residents
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 4:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 4:33 p.m.
The Alachua County Health Department is investigating the first three human cases of West Nile virus reported in the county since 2003, the agency reported Tuesday afternoon.
"The reason the red flag was raised is that these individuals attempted to donate blood, and there were some indicators that led us to believe that they could be infected," said Paul Myers, administrator of the Alachua County Health Department.
The individuals also have reported certain symptoms associated with the virus, Myers continued, and they are awaiting results from blood testing that should come in the next week. They might have been infected in late September or early October, Myers said. "The antibodies are there indicating an infection at some point. We just don't know if it's a recent infection or a past infection."
The disease had been detected on Sept. 20 in sentinel chickens used by the department. Officials at the time noted that the virus incubates in two to 14 days in humans, so any people infected would begin showing symptoms relatively soon.
Human WNV transmission is still a concern in Alachua County as surveillance data continue to demonstrate mosquito-borne disease activity. Myers said the county had a huge increase of the virus-bearing mosquito called culex nigripalpus after Tropical Storm Debby in late June. Mosquitos get the virus from infected birds.
Myers said the mild winter followed by drought created the perfect bird-mosquito cycle to breed the virus, and the storm then dispersed it.
Alachua County still remains under a Mosquito Borne Illness Advisory that began Sept. 27.
"I just don't want people to let their guard down," Myers said, adding, "This has been a very bad year for the entire Panhandle, from Escambia County to Jacksonville."
In September, someone in Escambia County died from WNV, and the county reported 10 cases this year. Infected people can have flu-like symptoms, but 85 percent never have symptoms, Myers said.
Myers said even though cooler weather has reduced mosquito activity, the risk of disease transmission will continue until the first freeze.
The department is continuing surveillance and prevention efforts and encourages everyone to take basic precautions to help limit exposure by following the department of health recommendations.
To protect yourself from mosquitoes, you should remember "Drain and Cover": Drain standing water and cover yourself with clothing and repellent.
The Florida Department of Health continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria and dengue. Residents are encouraged to report dead birds via the website for Surveillance of Wild-bird Die-offs. For more information, visit DOH's Environmental Public Health website, or call the Alachua County Health Department at 334-7930.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.