MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Health officials reported Minnesota's first probable human case of West Nile virus of the season Thursday.
The Minnesota Department of Health said a cerebral spinal fluid sample from an 80-year old Faribault County man tested positive for the West Nile virus antibody at both a hospital laboratory and the department's laboratory.
The sample was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for confirmation.
The man was hospitalized in late June with symptoms including fever, severe headache, disorientation, unsteady gait and fatigue. His illness was consistent with aseptic meningitis, a severe form of West Nile infection, the department said. He has since been released and is recovering, the department said. His name was not released.
Minnesota recorded 48 human cases of West Nile virus last year, the first time it appeared in the state, but no deaths. Nationwide, there were 4,156 human cases with 284 deaths in 2002. So far this year, five other cases have been reported from three states -- Texas, South Carolina and Alabama, according to the CDC.
State Epidemiologist Harry Hull said this case came earlier than the state's first cases last year, but health officials still expect the peak time for transmission of the virus to be from now through mid-September.
"The mosquitoes that carry West Nile begin their activity in May, but it takes some time for the disease to build among mosquitoes and birds before it is more likely to spread to the human population," Hull said.
So far this year, West Nile virus has also been found in three horses in three counties -- Crow Wing, Sherburne and Washington-- and six birds from four counties -- Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington.
West Nile is transmitted through mosquito bites and cannot be spread by contact with an infected person. Hull said the threat of any one person becoming ill from the virus is still extremely low, noting that most mosquitoes don't carry the virus.
The disease is rarely serious in humans. Of those who become infected, most will display no symptoms or only mild symptoms, according to the CDC. Fewer than one out of 150 people who become affected will get severely ill.
Symptoms usually show up three to 15 days after being bitten. They can include headache, high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. Severe cases tend to occur more often in the elderly.
To reduce the risk, the health department recommends using a good mosquito repellent while outside among mosquitoes; wearing long sleeves and long pants in areas where mosquitoes are biting; avoiding outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are feeding; and eliminating possible breeding sites on property such as old tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, cans and other containers, and anything else that can hold small amounts of water.
On the Net:
Minnesota Department of Health West Nile site:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention West Nile site:
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