West Nile Virus Case Confirmed in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND -- The first case of West Nile Virus has surfaced in Cleveland, and health experts warn that this could be a rough year for the disease.

The case, involving a 48-year-old man, is the second in the state of Ohio.  Last week, an 85-year-old man was diagnosed in Clermont County near Cincinnati.  Health officials say the cases have appeared about a month earlier than what’s been seen in the state over the last few years.

"I would say 80 percent of the people who are affected have no symptoms, but some of the milder symptoms that one might experience include a headache, slight fever, body aches," said Cleveland Department of Public Health director Karen Butler.

Butler says in most people those symptoms go away on their own, but sometimes the virus, transferred from bird to mosquitoes to humans, can cause severe problems.

"Symptoms like very intense fever, very intense headache, confusion, disorientation, those are the kind of things that we would advise people to seek immediate medical attention," Butler said.

"It mostly affects older and younger people so I'm right in the middle and I really don't have to worry about it, so I don't think it's a big deal sometimes, but for little kids and stuff I can see it's a big deal, but other than that, you really shouldn't have to worry about it," said one Cleveland resident.

Health experts say children and people over 50 are more susceptible to West Nile complications, as well as people with compromised immune systems.

"My concern is with us having such a dry weather, you know what I'm saying, at night kids are outside playing in the park," said Iris Guilfu.

"I've heard of it every summer so hopefully it won't get too bad," said Euclid resident Geri Williams.

"You gotta protect yourself, you know, be properly clothed and just be aware of surroundings, you know, if you're in a wooded area, just be prepared," said Jason Kenney.

Health officials recommend that people remove all sources of standing water, including old tires, flower pots, garbage can tops and bird baths.

"Wearing mosquito repellant, it's advisable to do that.  Wearing light colored clothes also makes it less attractive to mosquitoes.  Also their most active period occurs betwen dusk and dawn, so if you can avoid being outside during those times, do so," Butler said.

The Centers for Disease Control expects this to be a rough summer for West Nile across the country.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 374 mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile in Ohio.  This time last year, there were only 59.