Alachua County man diagnosed with West Nile virus


Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.

Alachua County's first case this year of West Nile virus in a person has been reported in a 64-year-old male, the Alachua County Health Department announced Tuesday morning.

The man started having symptoms in mid-September and had not traveled outside the county in the two weeks prior to the onset of symptoms, so he definitely contracted the virus in Alachua County, said Paul Myers, administrator of the Alachua County Health Department.

"This case is a serious case," Myers said. Myers said he could not comment on the man's current condition or where he is being treated.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, body aches and other flu-like symptoms, or more serious neurological symptoms such as seizures and paralysis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of people who are infected do not develop symptoms.

That's fairly typical of all infectious diseases, said Maureen Long, a professor in the infectious disease and pathology department at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

Long said the small segment of the population exposed to the virus who actually comes down with it is usually older and spends a lot of time outside.

The culex mosquito transmits the disease through a bite, and that type of mosquito has been the most numerous in mosquito traps throughout the county, Myers said.

"This year in September was the largest increase in vector mosquitoes (which transmit diseases and include the culex) that we have in six years," he said, adding that period coincided with when this man was bitten. The virus also has been reported in several sentinel chickens throughout the county.

In Florida, there have been three human cases of West Nile virus this year. The other two were reported in Duval and Nassau counties.

Myers urges people throughout Alachua County to not become complacent about taking precautions against mosquitoes because temperatures have dropped.

That means avoiding being out at dusk and dawn, and when you are, wearing repellant and covering up with long sleeves and pants, and draining standing water around your home, Myers said.

"Until we have the first hard freeze, these mosquitoes will be around," he said.

During mild winters like this past one, mosquitoes can be a year-round issue, Myers said, citing a human case of Eastern equine virus, which the mosquitoes also transmit, last January. There have been two cases of Eastern equine virus in humans this year — in Levy and Hillsborough counties.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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