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Published: Monday, 9/3/2012

West Nile cases on the rise across the country

1 Ohioan died of virus; 52 infections reported


If it seems like it's been a relatively mosquito-free summer, be warned.

If a mosquito bites, the chances are higher it's carrying the West Nile Virus.

"It's been a funny year because of the drought," said Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner David Grossman. "The mosquitoes that carry West Nile seem to thrive better. They seem to survive the drought conditions better."

As summer edges closer to fall, the cases of West Nile Virus are on the rise in Ohio, Michigan, and across the country.

One Ohioan -- a 76-year-old man from Hamilton County -- died from the virus, while a total of 52 cases had been reported to the Ohio Department of Health as of Friday. Among those, three people from Lucas County have been diagnosed with the virus along with one from Wood, Sandusky, Putnam, and Van Wert counties, and two from Allen County.

In Michigan, five people had died from the virus, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. About 95 cases of West Nile Virus had been reported, although none of those were in Monroe, Lenawee, or Hillsdale counties.

According to Michigan authorities, that is the highest number of cases reported for this time of year since the 2002 outbreak of the virus, which is typically carried by mosquitoes.

Most people -- about 80 percent or 4 in 5 -- who become infected with the virus will not show any symptoms. Up to 20 percent of those infected will develop symptoms including fever, headache and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back.

Health officials say about one in 150 people who are infected with the virus will develop more severe symptoms that require hospitalization. People over 50 are more susceptible to severe symptoms.

Tamra Fairchild, health educator for the Wood County Health Department, said the lone case reported in Wood County involved a 56-year-old man.

In Lucas County, the three cases reported involved two women and a man between the ages of 65 and 80.

Dr. Grossman said prevention is always the key to staying healthy.

"Try to protect yourself -- keep as covered up as you can. Use an insect repellent. Any standing water -- get rid of it," Dr. Grossman said.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water in buckets, tires, and flower pots.

For more information about West Nile Virus, go to odh.ohio.gov or michigan.gov/westnilevirus.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.

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