An elderly male from the Mount Vernon district of Fairfax County was the county's first probable human victim of West Nile virus this year, the Fairfax County Health Department announced Monday. If confirmed, this would be the first reported fatality due to West Nile virus in Virginia this year.
The patient developed symptoms mid-September. Subsequently, he apparently developed the more serious form of the disease, which contributed to his death. Laboratory samples are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation, but final results may take several weeks.
Last year, Fairfax County reported three human cases of the virus, none of which were fatal.
Humans contract West Nile virus most often from the bite of an infected mosquito; but most people bitten by infected mosquitoes do not get sick. Those who do get sick from West Nile virus usually suffer a mild flu-like illness and recover without treatment. In few people, most often older than 50, West Nile virus can cause serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.
“This is the fifth human case in Virginia. Although we have had a relatively quiet season, West Nile virus is still of concern in Fairfax County and mosquito breeding areas around homes should be eliminated,” said Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H., health director of Fairfax County. “In addition, residents can protect themselves against mosquito bites using a mosquito repellent containing DEET.”
The Fairfax County Health Department conducts activities to control mosquito populations in the county and throughout the year has been conducting a public education campaign called “Fight the Bite.” For more information on West Nile virus, visit Fairfax County ’s “Fight the Bite” Web page at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fightthebite, or visit the Virginia Department of Health’s Web site at
www.vdh.virginia.gov, or call the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-2411, TTY 711.