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Second West Nile death reported in Suffolk County

A second Suffolk County resident has died of complications from West Nile viral infection, the death announced Friday by health officials came just a week after the first one.

The person’s identity, beyond being described as a resident of Brookhaven and over the age of 50, were not released. Officials at the Suffolk County Department of Health say the patient began experiencing symptoms associated with the infection in late August, was subsequently hospitalized and died in mid-September. The individual was not known to have had any underlying health conditions, officials said.

The West Nile viral infection had been confirmed by the State Department of Health, Suffolk County officials said Friday.

“I extend my sincere condolences to the individual’s family,” Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk County’s health commissioner said in a statement.

Aspects of the case announced Friday were somewhat similar to the one Suffolk County health authorities reported a week ago. In that instance, the individual was said to have lived in the Town of Islip and also was described as being “over the age of 50.” That person was hospitalized in mid-September for West Nile viral infection and died a few days after being admitted, according to a county news release. That death was the first in Suffolk since 2010.

Outside of the two deaths, scientists at Wadsworth Center, the state health department laboratory in Albany also confirmed West Nile viral infection in an individual “under the age of 50” who resides in the Town of Babylon. That person became ill with symptoms consistent with West Nile virus in mid- September, was subsequently hospitalized, and is recovering at home.

To date, six cases of West Nile viral infection — including the two deaths — have been reported in Suffolk County this year. Two of the individuals resided in the Town of Brookhaven; two in the Town of Smithtown, one in the Town of Islip and one in the Town of Babylon.

By comparison, Nassau also has had six confirmed human cases. However, there have been no deaths. Two of the Nassau residents were described as under the age of 50 and four over 50. None are currently hospitalized.

West Nile virus has been detected on Long Island every year since 1999 when it was first found in bird and mosquito samples. Birds harbor the virus, but mosquitoes acquire it after feeding on a wide range of bird species. The virus is transmitted to humans through carrier mosquitoes.

Tomarken noted Friday that about 20 percent of people who become infected with West Nile virus will develop clinically noticeable symptoms.

Mild symptoms may include fever, headache and body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, vision loss and coma.

People most at risk are usually over 50, and those with chronic illnesses or compromised immunity.

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