NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Shelby County man is recovering after contracting the West Nile virus. The Tennessee Department of Health said it is the state's first confirmed human case of the virus in 2014.
The Shelby County health department said the 46-year-old man in Memphis has contracted the mosquito-borne illness.
Last year, 24 people contracted West Nile virus in Tennessee, nine of those in Shelby County. Officials said three cases resulted in death.
The health department in Shelby County has been conducting truck-mounted sprayings of insecticides in specific ZIP codes. Truck-mounted spraying kills adult mosquitoes currently flying at the time the insecticide is released.
“West Nile has been present in our state since 2001, and along with recent news about chikungunya virus is a reminder mosquitoes can carry disease and sometimes death, just as they did in our historic past here in Tennessee,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.
Health officials said eliminating the potential for standing water to accumulate around homes and businesses is one of the most effective ways to help reduce mosquitoes.
Mosquito populations in Tennessee are at their peak May through October. No human vaccine exists for the virus, so residents have been urged to take preventive measures to avoid being bitten by infected mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are infected with West Nile by feeding on infected birds, and can then transmit the virus through their bites. Most human infections are either asymptomatic or mild. Symptoms may include fever, head and body aches, and usually last only a few days. The virus cannot be spread from one person to another.
Less than one percent of human cases cause severe infections that may lead to meningitis or encephalitis and result in high fever, neck stiffness, stupor or disorientation. Severe cases may also cause muscle weakness or paralysis.
“West Nile virus has been detected in all lower 48 states, and while we urge all Tennesseans to take steps to protect themselves against it, certain groups of people are more at risk for the most serious forms of illness the virus can cause,” said State Medical Entomologist Abelardo Moncayo, PhD. “People with medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease are at greater risk for serious illness from WNV.”
Horses can also be infected with West Nile Virus. There were four confirmed cases of the virus in horses in 2013. Horse owners should be sure their animals are current on vaccinations for West Nile as well as for eastern equine encephalitis, which is also carried by mosquitoes.
For more information on West Nile virus, visit the Tennessee Department of Health website at http://health.state.tn.us/ceds/WNV/wnvhome.asp.
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)