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West Nile virus blamed for death in Brooklyn

 

NEW YORK (CNN) -- An 87-year-old Brooklyn woman who tested positive for the West Nile virus has died, the city health department announced.

The woman tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus August 25. She had been hospitalized in a coma since August and died last month, City Health Commissioner Dr. Neal L. Cohen said in a written statement Wednesday.

The woman was the first New York City resident to die as a result of contracting the virus in 2000. An 82-year-old New Jersey man died of the virus in September.

Eighteen people, including 14 from New York and four from New Jersey, were hospitalized with "severe" illnesses caused by West Nile viruses in 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported.

Cohen said the latest death "serves as an unfortunate reminder that West Nile virus can potentially be a serious illness, particularly in the elderly. As such, we have devoted significant resources to track the virus and limit its spread as much as possible."

Fourteen city residents, ranging in age from 36 to 87, tested positive for the virus in 2000. Ten of those were from the borough of Staten Island, two were from Brooklyn, and one each from Manhattan and Queens.

Of the 13 surviving cases, a 77-year-old man is currently in a rehabilitation facility and the others are home recovering, the health department said.

Seven people from the New York metropolitan region died as a result of West Nile in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control said. Sixty-one people fell seriously ill from the virus, the centers said. As many as 2,000 could have been affected, most without serious symptoms.

People can catch the virus after being bitten by a mosquito that contracted the disease by biting an infected bird. It is not transmitted human to human, or from birds to humans.

The sometimes-fatal disease can cause encephalitis, a swelling of the brain. The four main symptoms of West Nile virus are a fever, an altered mental state, spinal fluid with elevated levels of protein and muscle weakness.

Older people, people with compromised immune systems and young children are most susceptible to the virus.

The reduction in deaths over the past year resulted from aggressive spraying of insecticide to kill mosquitoes, and public education, health officials have said.



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RELATED SITES:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  •  Background, West Nile Virus
New York Department of Health


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