Florida Panhandle county reports West Nile virus death

8:48 AM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
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Pensacola, Florida (PNJ) -- The Escambia County Health Department says that one person has died after becoming infected with the West Nile virus.

The county is continuing its mosquito-borne illness alert.

"We are saddened to learn of the death of an Escambia County resident who tested positive for WNV," said Dr. John Lanza, Escambia County Health Department director. "Whether a person experiences a few symptoms or develops the more severe disease is highly dependent on the age and underlying health of the individual."

There have been 10 diagnosed West Nile virus cases in Escambia this year.

The risk of additional persons becoming infected with West Nile virus from mosquito bites remains very high, Lanza said.

According to the Health Department, mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus can bite and infect humans. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop serious illness.

Symptoms of infection can range from mild to severe, including development of diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis. People with weakened immune systems and individuals over 50 are at higher risk of the most severe form of the infection.

The abnormally high number of confirmed cases reaffirms the increased risk of contracting West Nile virus for everyone in the county, officials said.

Since most people who contract the disease have mild or no symptoms, there are most likely numerous undiagnosed cases throughout the area.

All residents and visitors should take precautions to limit their exposure to mosquitoes.

"One preventable risk factor is going outdoors, for even short periods of time, unprotected," Lanza said. "Persons making short outdoor trips to put out the trash, get the mail or use tobacco should take the same protective precautions as persons who spend longer periods of time outdoors."

In Santa Rosa County, a second human case of West Nile virus was confirmed on Tuesday.

"The confirmation of a second case of West Nile virus in our county means that it is extremely important for people to follow the recommended precautions," said Sandra L. Park-O'Hara, administrator of the Santa Rosa County Health Department.

The Health Department advises that Santa Rosa Mosquito Control is continuing to spray and the health department encourages the public to continue to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.