West Nile: 6-year-old recovering from virus in Sussex

Dr. Karyl Rattay
Dr. Karyl Rattay (Photo: DHSS)

DOVER, DELAWARE (6/26/2015) A 6-year-old Sussex County girl is recovering from the West Nile virus in the first human Delaware case of the illness since 2013, state health officials say.

The girl was briefly hospitalized but is now at home.

“This new human case is a reminder that West Nile virus is still active in Delaware,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health director. “It’s tempting with the distractions of summer fun to forget to protect you and your loved ones from insect bites. These bites can cause much more serious health problems than just itching and discomfort.”

The West Nile disease is carried by mosquitoes. Less than 20 percent of those infected develop West Nile fever with mild symptoms including headache, body aches, skin rash on the chest or back, and swollen lymph glands. One in 150 infected develop a severe infection such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis.

Symptoms of severe West Nile infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, tremors and muscle weakness. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk, health officials said. Anyone who experiences any of these severe symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms may progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, paralysis and possibly death.

Tips to avoid mosquito bites from the Division of Public Health:

  • Wear shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside. Mosquito netting can protect the face and neck and infants in carriages, strollers and playpens. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and during the early morning hours.
  • Mosquito repellents containing DEET can be applied to the skin, but will last only a few hours before reapplication is necessary. Use insect repellent containing less than 50 percent DEET for adults. The current American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using 10 to 30 percent DEET for children above 2 months old. The higher the strength, the longer the DEET provides protection which varies between two to five hours.
  • Read labels carefully and follow the instructions. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from entering the house by using screens and keeping windows and doorways tightly sealed.
  • Mosquitoes prefer shallow water and tall vegetation. Eliminate standing water in your yard by changing birdbath water weekly, regularly draining pet dishes and plant pot saucers, and checking gutters, pool covers and tarps for standing water. Store buckets, wheelbarrows and wading pools upside down. Keep grass mowed.

In Delaware, there were no reported human WNV cases in 2014, three cases in 2013, and nine cases in 2012 with one fatality.

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