Third West Nile Case Reported In Sedgwick County

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Dr. Hewitt Goodpasture has seen the spike.

"It's much greater than last year," said Goodpasture, the Medical Director for Infection Control and Prevention and Via Christi Medical Center.

He says in just the last two to four weeks, three patients have come to Via Christi with what is believed to be West Nile Virus.

"We know other hospitals have seen comparable numbers or fewer numbers of patients," Goodpasture said.

The Sedgwick County Health Department leaders say there have been a little less than 10 possible cases reported so far, that includes one death. They have sent samples off to the Centers for Disease Control for testing and confirmation. Those results are expected in the next 10 days.

If their suspicions are confirmed, the number of cases is concerning to Dr. Goodpasture and other health professionals. Only one in every 150 people who is infected gets sick enough to go the hospital. That means there are many others who, albeit not seriously ill, are still affected.

"When we are seeing these more severely ill people in the hospital, we know that's just the tip of the iceberg, a very small tip of the iceberg, so we know there is a lot of virus out there," Goodpasture said.

He says the drought likely has something to do with the increase.

"Drought conditions paradoxically lead to more irrigation, which leads to more standing water, which leads to more mosquito breeding," Goodpasture said.

Many areas of the country are dealing with the drought so the concern isn't just limited to Sedgwick County.

"Nationally, they have over 200 cases and they had had some deaths," Sedgwick County Health Director Claudia Blackburn said. "The majority of the cases nationally have been in Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi."

With those kinds of numbers, paired with local conditions, area health leaders say people need to be proactive.

"Be cautious when you go outside about what time of day so that you minimize your exposure to mosquitoes, wear long sleeves, long pants, wear an insect repellant, and dispose of standing water around your house," Blackburn said.

The most susceptible people are those over 50 and those who already have a medical condition.

But no matter what demographic someone falls in, doctors say to pay attention to the bottom line:

"The risk is significant this year and they need to be extra cautious about their mosquito exposure," Goodpasture said.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Local health officials are on alert now that West Nile virus has returned to Kansas. Via Christi officials say three cases have now been confirmed in Sedgwick County.

Sedgwick County Health Department officials say they are waiting for the Centers for Disease Control to confirm several possible cases of West Nile in the county. In one of those cases, the victim died.

The CDC reports Kansas is one of 24 states to report human cases of West Nile this year.

Health officials say 2012 is turning out to be a bad year for West Nile. They say cases are turning up earlier than normal and more serious illnesses of the virus have been reported so far this year than any since 2004. So far this year, 241 human cases have been reported in 24 states, including four deaths.

Health officials believe the mild winter, early spring and very hot summer have fostered breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people. Most West Nile infections are reported in August and September, so it's not clear how bad this year will be.

"Unless the weather changes dramatically, we'll see more cases (in 2012) than we have in the last couple of years," said Roger Nasci of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mosquitoes pick up the virus from birds they bite and then spread it to people. West Nile virus was first reported in the United States in 1999.

Experts say the best way to prevent West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellants, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies. Also, empty standing water from buckets, kiddie pools and other places to discourage mosquito breeding.

You can find more information about West Nile virus by clicking the link below.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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