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Defiance County man first West Nile fatality in Ohio this year

DEFIANCE — A 74-year-old Defiance County man is the first reported West Nile death in Ohio this year, state officials said Wednesday.

The man, who has not been identified, had been hospitalized with encephalitis, or brain inflammation, according to the Ohio Department of Health. He died Aug. 11, said spokesman Melanie Amato, but she declined to identify his city of residence or where he was hospitalized.

The state has reported 10 human cases of West Nile virus in Ohio this year, with cases in Clark, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Defiance, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Logan, and Summit counties. The Defiance man is the first recorded fatality this year.

“This time of the year, the risk of West Nile virus infection increases and individuals should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites,” Sietske de Fijter, state health department epidemiologist and bureau chief of infectious diseases, said in a statement. “Mosquito season in Ohio lasts until the first freeze, which is not usually until mid-October.”

Jamie Gerken, health commissioner for the Defiance County General Health District, said the department was notified of the death by the state health department. She also declined to identify the man. Defiance County reported no human West Nile cases in 2016 and no others this year, she said.

Ohio had 17 human West Nile Virus cases in 2016 including four deaths, 35 cases in 2015 with two deaths, and 11 cases in 2014 with one death, according to the state health department.

About 80 percent of people who get West Nile show no symptoms, according to the state health department. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting.

More serious symptoms can include neck stiffness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. The disease is primarily transmitted through a bite from an infected mosquito.

To avoid mosquito bites, health officials suggest wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves and pants, checking window and door screens for tears or gaps that allow mosquitoes to get inside, and wearing mosquito repellent when outside.

To reduce mosquito breeding sites, people should eliminate standing water in receptacles such as buckets, flower pots, children’s pools, and bird baths, and check that gutters are clean and draining properly.

More information about West Nile and mosquitoes can be found at odh.ohio.gov/wnv.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154 or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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