The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) announced that an adult living in the Baltimore metropolitan area has tested positive for the West Nile virus— the first confirmed human case of the virus in Maryland this year.
The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes who have been infected by feeding on birds who have the virus. In rare instances, the virus may be spread from person to person through organ donation, blood transfusion, breastfeeding, or from pregnant mother to fetus.
The disease affects the nervous system, and up to 80 percent of people who are infected will not display any signs of illness at all. Those who have underlying health conditions, however, could become seriously ill.
“This is the season when we start to see West Nile virus spread in Maryland, so we urge people to be vigilant and take steps to avoid infection,” said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Dr. Jinlene Chan.
“Disease surveillance teams are closely monitoring increasing numbers of infected mosquitoes that have turned up in several areas across the state.”
While most people do not develop symptoms from this virus, some people who develop illness may experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches; occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands may be noticed. These symptoms may last a few days or as long as several weeks.
Those who are older than 50 or have immunocompromised conditions can become seriously ill.
Residents are also urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for areas of high mosquito activity, especially standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes, as well as clogged rain gutters or drain pipes.
For additional information on West Nile virus, visit PHPA West Nile virus.