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Fifth human West Nile virus case reported in Suffolk County

A culex pipiens, one of the mosquitoes that

A culex pipiens, one of the mosquitoes that transmits West Nile virus and lives on Long Island. Credit: USGS

A fifth person has been stricken with the potentially fatal West Nile virus, and the Town of Brookhaven resident is recuperating at a rehabilitation center, Suffolk County said.

This patient is over 55 years old, one of the groups most at risk from the virus, along with anyone who is chronically ill or whose immune system is compromised, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services Dr. James Tomarken said in a news release Tuesday. The person was hospitalized Sept. 15. 

About one-fifth of the people bitten by an infected mosquito develop symptoms, health officials say.

The fourth patient with West Nile virus lives in the Town of Islip. Younger than 55 years old, that person became ill Sept. 1 and was released after a short hospitalization, Tomarken said last week.

On Sept. 18, the county said there were two patients, from Smithtown and Huntington towns, both over the age of 55, who were stricken. Those patients have recovered, Tomarken said.

However, the first patient, from the Town of Babylon and older than 55 years old, has been in the hospital since Aug. 19, Tomarken said.

The virus' mild symptoms can be fever, headache and body aches, a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms in more severe cases can include high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

Patients can benefit from supportive care, Tomarken said, urging anyone who symptoms to seek medical treatment. A specific treatment for the virus has yet to be found.

Residents should remove standing water where mosquitoes could breed, Tomarken said. If they are among the most at-risk groups, they should continue taking extra precautions such as using insect repellent through Nov. 1. Mosquito season began June 1.

Suffolk County reported seven human cases in 2017. In 2010, when there were 25 cases, three people died.   

For medical questions related to West Nile virus, call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Division of Public Health at 631-854-0333.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

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