The identity of a local victim who died Friday of West Nile Virus remained unidentified Monday, however, an official from the Pettis County Health Center has confirmed the victim was exposed to the virus in Pettis County.
“The victim was exposed in the county,” PCHC Administrator JoAnn Martin told the Democrat Monday. Martin would not say where the victim died, however, because of patient confidentiality.
Pettis County Coroner Skip Smith also said he also did not know the identity of the victim Monday and his office has not received any victims of the disease.
Missouri has seen widespread activity of the disease statewide in 2015. An official with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said there are eight other cases reported statewide in addition to the Pettis County victim. The official, who did not want to be identified, said DHSS has seen most cases in past years in St. Louis County, Boone County and the Kansas City metropolitan area. However, officials are seeing more widespread activity this year.
A health alert issued Sept. 8. by DHSS officials said, “the DHSS has received reports of West Nile virus activity in all parts of the state. Seven neuroinvasive human cases in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Schuyler County were reported and four positive blood donors in St. Louis, St. Charles, Miller and Cape Girardeau counties have recently been identified. Equine cases can be a sentinel event for human cases, with equine cases preceding those occurring in people.
“Additionally, 25 dead bird sightings have been noted across the state in species that are known to be sensitive to WNV infection. Currently, no testing of sick or dead wild birds for WNV is being routinely conducted. Two Missouri counties — St. Louis and Jefferson — have reported numerous positive mosquito samples they collected and tested throughout the summer.”
The virus is most commonly spread by bites from infected Culex species of mosquitoes. In addition to transmission of disease through insect bites, WNV can also be transmitted through transplants of infected organs and blood products. WNV can cause febrile illness, encephalitis and/or meningitis.
Approximately 80 percent of people who become infected with WNV will not experience any symptoms of infection, and less than 1 percent will develop the more serious, neuroinvasive form of WNV disease. Individuals who do develop symptoms of WNV illness may experience a sudden onset of febrile illness that often includes headache, myalgia and/or arthralgia. Other commonly reported symptoms of illness include gastrointestinal tract symptoms and maculopapular rash.
Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people older than 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness. Fatigue and muscle weakness may linger for weeks or months following acute illness caused by WNV.
The best way to avoid illness due to WNV infection is to avoid mosquito bites. When going outdoors, using an insect repellent on the skin that contains DEET, picaridin or another EPA-approved ingredient that is effective for mosquitoes can help prevent bites. Appropriate clothing, such as long pants and sleeves, when weather permits, can minimize exposed skin. Permethrin is a repellent that can be applied to clothing or gear that will be used outdoors. It is a long-lasting product that can withstand multiple washes before re-applying. Do not use permethrin directly on the skin.
Around the home, several precautions can be taken to reduce WNV risk, primarily removing standing water from yards. Mosquitoes that carry WNV prefer to breed in locations that have standing water, such as birdbaths, buckets, flower pots, tires, and pool covers. By emptying these items or changing the water weekly, the number of mosquitoes around homes can be reduced. To prevent mosquitoes from entering homes, it is recommended that residents use air conditioning if it is available. Screens should be installed and maintained on all windows and doors around the home to minimize mosquito entry.
Mosquito control activities are most often handled at the local level, such as through county or city government. The type of mosquito control methods used by a program depends on the time of year, the type of mosquitoes to be controlled, and the habitat structure. Methods can include elimination of mosquito larval habitats, application of insecticides to kill mosquito larvae, or spraying insecticides from trucks or aircraft to kill adult mosquitoes. Local mosquito or vector control programs can provide information about the type of products being used and the criteria they use to trigger mosquito control spraying.
Editor Tim Epperson can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1485.