The first death in Suffolk County from West Nile virus since 2010 has been confirmed, county health officials said Thursday.
In late August a Town of Islip resident, over 50 years old, started experiencing symptoms associated with the virus, officials said. The person “was hospitalized in mid-September and died several days later,” according to a news release.
This is the fourth confirmed West Nile case this year, with three other residents, one from the Town of Brookhaven and two from the Town of Smithtown, either now recuperating or having recovered, officials said.
“We know only about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus,” Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk’s commissioner of health services, said in an earlier news release. “There may be many more residents who acquired West Nile virus, but we never learned about them because they didn’t seek medical attention or they sought attention but lab tests weren’t ordered.”
Suffolk reported five human cases each in 2016 and 2015, with no deaths. Nassau saw seven human cases — including one death in 2016 and nine human cases and no deaths in 2015. For the 2016 season nationally, 2,038 cases of West Nile virus had been reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Jan. 17.
So far this year, Nassau has had six confirmed human cases — two individuals under 50 and four over 50 — with none currently hospitalized, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County health department said.
Humans contract the virus through bites of infected mosquitoes, with about 20 percent of people infected developing noticeable symptoms. Mild symptoms can include fever, head and body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands, with high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, muscle weakness, numbness and paralysis among the more severe symptoms, Suffolk health officials said.
Among those most at risk for the virus, which can be fatal, are people over 50 and those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems.