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Man catches West Nile virus in South Lee, officials report

By Staff | Oct 15, 2009

A 69-year-old man from South Fort Myers has contracted West Nile virus, according to the Lee County Health Department, but mosquito experts said the incident is isolated.
The virus, carried and transmitted by mosquitoes, manifests in a number of symptoms — fever, headache, aches, skin rash or swollen glands — but can be deadly if it enters the brain or spinal cord, causing encephalitis or meningitis.
Symptoms generally appear within three to 14 days of infection. However, nearly 80 percent of cases show no symptoms.
Since 2001 there have been six cases of West Nile virus in Lee County and 239 across the state. It was first identified in Florida in 2003 and has since been encountered in all 67 counties.
Lee County Mosquito Control District officials have applied extra pesticides to the region surrounding the man’s home in South Fort Myers. A truck was deployed to the neighborhood Tuesday and aircraft circled the same area Wednesday night to apply additional treatment.
Shelly Redovan, spokesperson for the district, said all tests have come up negative.
“It’s probably isolated, but we don’t want to discourage people from protecting themselves,” she said. “We aren’t seeing any pattern of a virus. It seems to be an unfortunate situation for that one patient.”
The district has traps around the county that emit carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes. Redovan said results from the traps came up negative for West Nile virus.
Chicken sentinel flocks — cages of chickens placed in areas with high concentrations of mosquitoes — were also negative for the virus this week. The virus is spread when mosquitoes bite infected birds.
“It has to be the right mosquito, the right age and one that has lived long enough to hold the virus,” Redovan said. “It’s not something that easily occurs.”
Mosquito populations tend to decrease this time of year as the summer ends and the weather begins to cool. Dry conditions over the past few years have further decreased the mosquitoes’ presence.
Most of the mosquitoes found in Lee County today are from permanent bodies of water or small collections near residences or neighborhoods.
“Right now the number of mosquitoes is pretty reduced,” she said.
The Lee County Health Department suggests that anyone exhibiting a fever, headache, confusion or stiffness should contact their physician or emergency department.
Physicians are being asked to contact the health department if they suspect a patient has the virus.