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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2003

Fulton County has state's 1st W. Nile case


A Fulton County man became the first person in the state this year with a confirmed case of the West Nile virus, marking the beginning of a second season of the potentially deadly disease in Ohio.

Laboratory tests results, received yesterday, confirm that the 43-year-old man's fever and severe headache were caused from the virus, said Hans Schmalzried, Fulton County health commissioner.

The man, whose identity was not released, was hospitalized in Lucas County for five days with West Nile encephalitis and released July 4.

“The most important thing is that he's fine,” Dr. Schmalzried said. “He's fully recovered, and he's back to work.”

So far, no one in Michigan has tested positive for West Nile, although a crow in Lenawee County was found to be carrying the virus.

The virus is carried by birds and mosquitoes, but only mosquitoes pass it onto humans.

Less than 1 percent of mosquitoes are infected, and most infected humans suffer no symptoms. Only one in five get a mild, flulike illness called West Nile fever. Only one in 150 get the more severe brain infections, encephalitis or meningitis. At greater risk are people over 50 and those with other health problems.

Ohio's first reported case of 2002 didn't occur until Aug. 19, but Christopher Weiss, Ohio Department of Health spokesman, said that's because of delays in getting test results last year. Mr. Weiss said it's common for the mosquito-born illnesses to begin taking hold in mid to late July.

Health officials don't know if this year's outbreak will be as bad as last year's, when the state had 441 probable and confirmed cases, resulting in 31 deaths. Michigan was worse, with 644 cases and 51 deaths. In northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, there were 50 cases and four deaths.

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