Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health Services reports the first confirmed case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in a New Hampshire resident this year. This is also the first case of WNV in the State since 2003. The adult male from the town of Mason in Hillsborough County, who has recovered, traveled to the Western United States prior to becoming ill.
“While the patient probably acquired the virus in New Hampshire,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health “because of his travel history it is possible he may have become infected in a Western state, but we will never know for sure. While there have not been any human cases confirmed in New Hampshire for seven years, many other states are seeing it this year.Therefore, we are asking people to take precautions to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, even when they are traveling.”
West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird or other animal. Health officials stress that the risk to humans is low, and in the overwhelming majority of cases there are no symptoms, or just mild, flu-like symptoms. If illness does occur, it happens within 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
People over the age of 50 are considered to be at higher risk of becoming ill, the symptoms of which can include severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion, loss of consciousness, and muscle weakness. In very rare cases, the disease has caused death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta now considers West Nile Virus to be a permanent part of the environment in the United States. It first arrived in New York City in 1999 and has steadily spread westward across the United States. This season so far 30 states have documented the presence of West Nile Virus. West Nile was first isolated in 1937 and has been known to occur in West Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as well as the United States.
“While this is not entirely unexpected it is important for people to continue to be vigilant,” says Dr. Montero. “Everyone can help stop the spread of West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis by getting rid of mosquito breeding areas found on their property. We’re asking everyone to check for discarded tires, clogged gutters, and other sources of standing water, and to take steps to eliminate them.”
Health officials also encourage residents to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, the only way humans get West Nile Virus. Preventive measures include using insect repellent (used according to the instructions on the label), wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors (especially at dawn, dusk, and during the evening), and by checking doors and windows to ensure screens are in place and in good condition to prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.
Questions about West Nile Virus can be answered by calling the toll-free West Nile Virus information line at 866-273-NILE (6453) or by checking the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.
(See attached file: Prevention Guidelines for WNV)