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Memphis resident the first human West Nile virus case in Tennessee

C. tarsalis is currently the main vector of West Nile virus
C. tarsalis is currently the main vector of West Nile virus

A Shelby County resident is Tennessee's first human case of the mosquito borne virus, West Nile virus (WNV), state health officials announced today. Health authorities are urging the public to take preventive measures to avoid being bitten by infected mosquitoes.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) Commissioner, John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH said, “We know most mosquitoes live their lives and die within a few blocks of the typically stagnant standing water where they were born. Reducing breeding areas is an old strategy we need to bring back to protect our families, neighbors and customers, so in addition to personal bite protection, we urge people across Tennessee to remove standing water around their homes and businesses.”

This mosquito borne virus report come just 11 days after the state reported the first imported chikungunya case in a Madison County resident who traveled to the Caribbean.

WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes are WNV carriers that become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite. Rarely, WNV also has spread through transfusions, transplants, and mother-to-child.

Approximately 80 percent of people who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected will display mild symptoms, which appear 3-14 days after getting infected, and include fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms typically last a few days.

About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. There is no specific treatment for WNV infection. Prevention is by avoiding mosquito bites and eliminating mosquito breeding sites.

In 2013, Tennessee reported 24 WNV cases, including two deaths. The worst year for WNV in Tennessee was 2002 when the state recorded 56 cases and seven deaths.

Other states reporting WNV in 2014 to date include Mississippi, California and Alabama.

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